Letters of Recommendation

cat-in-the-hat-imageI am happy to consider writing letters for any student who has completed course work for me. In order to ensure that I am in a position to write a strong letter, please see me during office hours or contact me over email  before sending materials. Usually, I can write the most persuasive letters for students whose intellect and writing I have personally come to know from their work. By “work” I mean both your writing for the course and your active participation in class discussions. (As a rule of thumb, you can usually expect the grade you received in a course to indicate the kind of letter a professor can write for you.)

Please take note of the following guidelines which will greatly help me to write the best possible letter for you. A dossier service, such as Interfolio, is highly recommended, especially when applying to graduate or professional schools so that letter writers can write a single letter that the service will securely reproduce and forward to multiple recipients.

Advance warning is crucial.  Please provide all the materials listed below at least 4 weeks prior to the due date of your application. Please note that just before and during school-breaks, I will need earlier notice. (If in doubt, please contact me.)

Please include the following in a folder or single PDF that has your name clearly marked on it:

  1. a resumé or a CV that includes information on your educational and professional background, as well as other information you think may be valuable for me to note (summer jobs, internships, fellowships, awards, study abroad, language skills, etc.);
  2. a draft copy of your statement of purpose or proposal to the program you are applying. (If you are applying for a fellowship, include a copy of the announcement). If you are not required to write a statement, please make sure to provide me a paragraph that explains what your application is intended to accomplish. The more information you give me, the better able I am to personalize the letter for you;
  3. photocopies of course material that I have graded and handed back to you (papers, exams, etc.).  Please do NOT send me new printouts or the originals; the marked and graded copy you got back from me helps remind me of your work.
  4. a copy of your transcript (photocopy of an unofficial transcript is fine) highlighting  the course(s) you took with me;
  5. addressed-and-stamped envelopes (if necessary) with a clearly marked deadline so that I am sure to send the letter to the correct place on time;
  6. your phone number and email address (make sure that you check both regularly) should I need to reach you;
  7. a cover note to me indicating any pertinent information you especially wish me to emphasize in my letter. Please do not be modest here. If you feel that your oral skills were especially evident in my class, remind me of them; if you feel your research paper for my course provides a notably positive sense of your aptitude, please refresh my memory of it. A few ways you might do so could include: “I would especially like you to draw attention in your letter to… [because]…” or “Your letter could be especially helpful in drawing attention to the following skills that I developed/were evident in your class…”

And, finally, a few professional courtesies that go a long way:

  1. waive your right to read confidential letters;
  2. thank your letter writers— in writing– for their support. It takes a few moments and is a major (and much-remembered) courtesy.
  3. keep your letter writers informed about the outcome of your application once you know it (professors are always keen to know how things work out for their students), and this is particularly appropriate if you intend to ask me to update your letter in the future.