I write letters of recommendation and act as a reference for current and former students. Please note that you do not impose on me when you ask me for a letter. In order to help you determine if I am the right person to support you, I offer some guidelines. They aim at getting you what you need by giving me the ability to assess whether I can write for you and then, if I agree to do a letter, that I can do it well.
Can I write you a strong letter?
Study Abroad: Generally if you have taken a class with me and done steady work, I will be able to recommend you, since those letters don’t require me to have much detail about you. Ask yourself, “Did I earn a B, attend class regularly, and turn in work in a timely way?”
Non-academic job: Similar criteria apply. Keep in mind that it is frequently better to have a reference for jobs from someone who has supervised you at a previous job, because I will be unable to speak to anything but your academic performance.
Graduate School: Normally I should be familiar with your work, you should have been in more than one class with me, and we should have had reasonably in-depth conversations about your academic work in office hours. Ask yourself, “Did I receive high marks (in the A range) and good comments on my work?”
Please note, my position as a contract instructor may compromise my letter in the assessment of some academics. My experience tells me that this has little impact on writing for students applying to a Masters program. I will write strong letters for students interested in PhD programs or in awards and fellowships who meet the above criteria, but, if this is you, you should aware of the hierarchies of academia and approach the most suitable advocates.
Is it still me you wish to ask for support? Read on!
When should you contact me?
Please aim to submit everything a recommender needs to write you a strong letter at least two weeks before the application is due. Please ask me to write you a strong letter at least 3-4 weeks before the due date; if I am not able to support you, you will have time to contact other profs. If you are behind, please still make the request, but you should not count on it because I reserve the right to decline based on my availability.
I welcome reminders as the deadlines approach to make sure that I’ve submitted recommendation letters in a timely way. Feel free to send me a notice a week ahead and on the due date. I will confirm when I have submitted your reference.
What materials do I want to see?
Once I have agreed to write a strong letter for you please send the following, even if you have already sent some of it:
- A list of the programs or funding opportunities to which you’re applying, noting the deadlines for each and whether there are specific forms that I will need to fill out, with links to them.
- Your draft cover letter and statement of purpose or research proposal.
- A list of the classes you took with me, when they were, and what marks you received in them. If you have copies of papers you wrote for me along with my comments on them that is useful, too.
- Copies of your unofficial transcripts.
- A short summation of your work outside of the classroom – activities, achievements, passions.
- How you prefer to be named and which pronouns you’d like me to use when I talk about you and your work in my letter. My default is to use your last name exclusively.
- Anything else that you think will help me write the best possible letter for you.
**thanks to Natalie Loveless, Alexis Shotwell, and Kathryn Norlock for modeling faqs like this one!