Letters of Recommendation

cat-in-the-hat-imageJobs! Internships! Fellowships! Graduate and Professional School! All require letters of recommendation from those who know you.  In every course you take, start building relationships with professors so you have a network of people who can support you when you need it. Speak up in class, visit office hours, and make sure your professors know you beyond a letter on the Canvas grade book.

In order to ensure that I am in a position to write you a strong letter, please see me during office hours or contact me over email  before sending materials. Please avoid last-minute asks. Achieving high goals requires intention and planning.  Make the time to do both!

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 contributions 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.)

Advance notice is crucial.  Please provide all the materials listed below at least 3 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.) If you’re unable to provide advance notice, please locate a recommender who can accommodate your deadline.

Please include the following in a single PDF that has your name clearly marked on it (no piecemeal submissions across multiple emails, please!):

  1. a cover note to me indicating any pertinent information you 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 effective 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 highlighting the following skills that I developed/were evident in your class such as…”
  2. 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.);
  3. 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 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;
  4. a copy of your complete transcripts (undergraduate & graduate, if relevant; unofficial transcripts are fine) highlighting  the course(s) you took with me;
  5. 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. When applying to graduate or professional schools, a dossier service, such as Interfolio, is highly recommended, so that letter writers can write a single letter that the service will securely reproduce and forward to multiple recipients.

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

  1. waive your right to read confidential letters;
  2. When you make your ask in writing, make sure it includes a please. (You’d be surprised how many don’t bother with this courtesy which means they get memorialized for bad manners!)
  3. thank your letter writers— in writing—for their support. It takes a few moments and is a major (and much-remembered) courtesy.
  4. 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.