Letters of Recommendation

I am happy to provide my students with letters of recommendation. However, before you ask me, please consider the following:

  1. Did you take a class with me, or work with me in another capacity, such as as a member of a student organization that I advised? I am more willing to write you a letter, and a strong letter at that, if we have some history together.
  2. Did you do well in my course(s)? Did you produce strong work? Did you actively participate in course discussions and activities?
  3. Am I the best professor to speak to your abilities, skills and/or potential regarding the position for which you are applying?
  4. Are you my advisee?
  5. Are you prepared to explain to me why you think you are the best person for this job, or why this graduate program is the best fit for you?

If you’ve decided that I am in fact the best person to write you a letter, then please follow these instructions:

  1. You may request a letter of recommendation via email. Of course, if you want to discuss the position or graduate program, I am more than happy to meet with you in person or speak on the phone.
  2. I need a copy of the job ad or some information about the graduate program/fellowship/scholarship, and polished copies of your cover letter, personal statement, writing sample, CV and/or resume.
  3. If the job or graduate application requires me to fill out a form/questionnaire, please complete as much of the form as you can before giving it to me; for example, you should fill out your personal information such as your name. Consider whether or not you will waive your right to access the letter that I write and the implications of that decision.
  4. If you are requesting that I write a letter for multiple jobs/graduate programs, please provide me with a document that states each institution, due date, format (email or hard copy), etc.
  5. I need copies of some of your best assignments in my class(es), with my comments, as well as a list of the courses you’ve taken with me and the grade you earned.
  6. I need you to tell me specifically who to address the letter to, where to send it, and by when. If it can be sent through email, please make sure you’ve given me the email address. If it needs to be a paper letter, please provide me with a stamp and the mailing address. I will use departmental stationery.
  7. If you want me to comment on something specific about you and your work, please tell me.
  8. All of the above should be submitted to me at least one month before the application deadline.
  9. If I’ve written a letter for you in the recent past, updating should not be a problem. That said, if you have more recent coursework, or if it’s a holiday (summer, winter, etc.), I would still appreciate at least 3 weeks notice.

So I’ve agreed to write you a letter. Now what?

    1. You may send me a gentle reminder 3-4 business days before the deadline; 5-7 days if the letter needs to be sent via snail mail.
    2. Let me know when you hear back from the job/graduate program. When I agree to write a letter or serve as a reference, it’s because I want to see you succeed!(These guidelines are adapted from Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen.)