I’m trying to remember. When I applied for BYU, my seminary teacher needed to fill out a form regarding my performance and attendance in class. She also had to write a few comments that would hopefully help the admissions board accept bright, shiny me to their bright, shiny school. Did she mail that part of the form to the school herself, or did she give it to me to send with the rest of the application?
BYU has several teeming campuses these days: BYU-Provo (29,000 students), where I attended; BYU-Idaho (11,600 students), which used to be Ricks College, in Rexburg, Idaho; BYU-Hawaii (2,400 students), from what I hear, is one of the most beautiful, paradisiacal campuses in the universe; and LDS Business college (1,300 students), in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Provo campus assumes it’s the superior campus, coming up from BYU Academy, way back when Karl Maeser was running the place and the adulation for Brigham Young was probably at its highest. He did lead the saints away from persecution, through the plains and treacherous weather and around the Rockies to Utah. It is a pretty big deal, and I can understand the value of one’s heritage.
BYU is a good school. It’s a private school. It’s the best education you can get as an undergrad for the cost. It’s a sterile school; it’s a wholesome school; it has rocked as the most “stone-cold sober” school for the past how many years? 10? At least. My freshmen classes were huge – the weeder courses: American Heritage, Biology 100 – both had around 1,000 students, and that was just for my registered time slots. And the classes were split into numerous sections, where we’d meet as a group of 30 or so and get somewhat more individual attention from the TAs.
I would assume, since they are considerably smaller, the other campuses might be a bit less intimidating. Some people appreciate going to a church school, having thousands of others who share the same beliefs surround them, where everyone helps everyone else feel more secure. People often call BYU “Happy Valley” or “The Bubble” for this reason. It doesn’t represent at all what the real world is like. There are no legitimate disagreements, just the opportunity to concentrate on school and church and social life (or the severe lack thereof).
Maybe no college is like the real world. College is this 4- (or 5-, or 6-, or 7- …) year chunk of life away from reality. Supposedly you acquire and refine skills for a career. It’s a pivotal and often integral part of one’s future. Whether one gets into a school could make a big difference, and then which school is also a key factor.
So, as a high school student, somehow getting into college becomes critical to life, and there’s all this pressure and you take all sorts of hard classes and get very little sleep for all the homework and exams, then there’s extracurriculars, such as band and honor society and community service.
And then, applications require a few words of recommendation from school teachers, and sometimes from seminary teachers – if you’re applying to a church school. My seminary teacher did it for me, and she probably had some nice things to say. And now that I’m a seminary teacher, a student has requested for me to fill out that part of the application. It instantly made me nervous, because I wanted to do a good job, and while I knew that this student’s admission wasn’t riding entirely on my recommendation, I wanted to help as much as I could. So, I worked on it, and I’ll be handing that page of the application to my student Monday morning.
“Whenever I begin my early-morning seminary class with an object lesson or a hypothetical situation, [student] figures out the core message withing the first few minutes of the discussion. [S/He] has a complex, curious and keen mind. [S/He] craves and constantly seeks truth. And, [S/He] shares it. [Her/His] insights are articulate and often profound. What sustains [her/his] intelligence, though, is the Spirit that seems to attend [her/him] continually. [Student] is a diligent, righteous child of God. [S/He] is an absolute joy to teach. [Her/His] testimony is strong and steadfast, and [s/he] is also a quiet leader … [S/He] exudes humility and integrity, and with [her/his] generous heart, [s/he] extends friendship and compassion to everyone. In the few months and calm mornings I have known [her/him] so far, these qualities became immediately apparent. Imagine how [her/his] potential will unfold throughout [her/his] college career! [Student]’s life and dreams have blessed me and everyone who knows [her/him]. I am grateful for [her/his] example, and I know [a BYU school] will benefit immensely from [her/his] invaluable talents and pursuit of truth.”
The words fit in the small space on the page, in Arial Narrow, 10-point type, which is still bigger than the print on the application. Overkill? Maybe. But this student totally blows my mind and touches my heart and I want this student to do the same for everyone else. Because that is what the world needs.
Good luck, student. Dazzle them the way you do.