Soup Kitchens Prepare to Accommodate Increased Demand for College Recommendation Letters

CHICAGO — With the weather turning colder, many soup kitchens and homeless shelters say they are radically underprepared for the record number of college-bound high schoolers who will soon fill their halls looking for letters of recommendation.

“Around the holidays demand goes through the roof,” explained Jenny Faust, director of the Helping Hands shelter in Logan Square. “They come to us with absolutely nothing–résumés totally bare other than a couple clubs and organizations. We do what we can, but with application deadlines so soon, many of these kids will be doomed to state schools. It’s heart-breaking.”

Connor Philips, a senior at Mother of Mary Preparatory School, was among the unfortunate turned away by a soup kitchen over-flowing with opportunistic volunteers.

“I’ll try the Red Cross or maybe a few churches,” said Philips, bundled in a 200-dollar pea coat. “But if I can’t get a good recommendation in my file, things could get grim. I may not coast into Northwestern.”

Some college counselors urge tough-love is the right approach to help struggling seniors.

“I know you’re not supposed to say this about the less fortunate, but a lot of times it’s their own fault,” says Loyola admissions counselor Tina Kemp. “For many of the kids out here, it may be too late to pad their applications with symbolic gestures.”