By Gretchenrae Callanta, Assistant Director of Residence Life and Housing, Emmanuel College
In my job at Emmanuel College, I work primarily with first-year students. These students are new to the College and are building their support network. In a month or so, many of our leadership positions and organizations will solicit applications for the upcoming calendar year or academic year. These applications ask for references and/or letters of recommendation.
First-year students that I interact with ask if I can serve as a reference or write a letter of recommendation on their behalf. Often times, we haven’t had enough interaction for me to write a strong letter of recommendation or provide a good reference. They ask me, because they know me. They see me around campus, we say hi, or we’ve had one good conversation. If I haven’t worked directly with the student in some capacity or have several interactions with a student, I will usually ask if there is someone who would be able to provide a stronger reference than me, perhaps a work supervisor or a faculty member that is more familiar with them.
What I tell first-year students early on is to start getting to know staff and faculty members now. If you find a lecture from a faculty member intriguing, visit them during office hours and get to know them. No office hours or they don’t work with your schedule? Ask if they’d be able to meet with you over coffee/tea. If there’s a staff member you’ve had a couple good interactions with that you want to get to know better or learn more about, set up some time to chat with them or swing by their office. By building those relationships early, the staff and/or faculty member will become familiar with your involvement and academic achievements. They can learn about you and create a meaningful relationship with you that will allow them to provide a relevant and meaningful recommendation for you when the time comes.