2 months ago
Admissions Advice

Can my private academy(hagwon) teacher be a other recommender?

In Korea, there's a thing called hagwon. It's similar to private academy or cram school or something... There's nothing exactly same thing in US. To briefly explain, if you having hard time to follow the school's classes or want to get more delicate lecture so that get more nice grades, then hagwon is where you should go. Almost every student in S.Korea goes there, since only attending schools is usually not enough to earn high grades and enter a nice univ.

There's an English hagwon where I had attended for 10 years, from 2nd grade to 12th grade. I want to ask the president teacher to be a other recommender. She knows almost everything about me. Is this possible?


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Accepted Answer
2 months ago[edited]

The simple answer would be no. I say that because Hagwon is not your primary high school but an after-school tutoring school to make sure you receive preparatory training to ensure you are successful in HS. It's not dual enrollment in say a community college where you are taking harder classes than in HS but rather a place where you hone your skills, understanding, and expertise to make sure stay in top form at HS.

In the US, we have Hagwon services but they are all separate for the most part. Some kids go to Mathnasium which is for Math help. And other kids go "Kumon" for Math, Reading, and Writing. And other go to various private tutors who cover a whole range of subjects. It's not as uniformly organized as Hagwon in S.Korea.

Most top colleges in the US, require 1 HS counselor recommendation and 2 from your HS teachers. Some are even pickier, and ask for 1 STEM teacher and 1 Humanities teacher. At Dartmouth, they have a 4th recommender called the Peer Recommender who is someone that went to your school like a classmate (either currently a classmate or is ahead of you who is in college).

I would stick to the letter of the requirement and not ask your Hagwon teacher to write your recommendation for you. The other reason is you don't want to present yourself from a position of weakness. Since most College Admissions Readers know what Hagwon is, they really don't want to think you are getting a quid pro quo recommendation from someone you pay money to tutor you. Do you see how that could compromise your intention? Also, you shouldn't mention Hagwon at all because that is like an American kid saying to an Ivy League school that he or she received 10 years of private tutoring to be able to compete with the other applicants. You never want to say that you received a lot of outside help on your college application. Most people do not wear the "tutoring badge" as a badge of honor but rather are secretly embarrassed that they couldn't keep up as the smart kids. Some of my friends were tutors at the place I mentioned so for them these were ECs under the category of part-time jobs for them. So when you are the teacher it's a good thing to talk about it and list it on your college application. But when you are a student, it would benefit you more if nobody knew.

I don't know what the culture is like in S.Korea. But here, no one wants to admit to getting private tutoring.


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