Letters of Recommendation

Do you need a letter of recommendation? You should first write and ask if I can write a letter for you. I generally do not write letters for students in IB35ac that received an A- or lower, unless you distinguished yourself in some other way (i.e., wrote a particularly excellent paper for which you were acknowledged).

Once you have my agreement, at least two weeks before the first deadline please send me the following information:

  1. A list of the programs to which you are applying, together with due dates and how I should submit letters (URL, email address, I should wait until I get an email from them, etc.) Also let me know to whom I should address the letter (i.e., Dear Dr. So-and-so). The clearer this information is compiled for me, the happier I am. The happier I am, the more glow-y your letter will be.
  2. An unofficial copy of your transcript,
  3. A draft of your personal statement (if applicable, it doesn’t have to be perfect — I just need a sense of why you are applying and what you are telling them.),
  4. A copy of your CV or resume
  5. And, responses to the following questions (the better I know you, the better the letter I can write for you):
    • What is your name, year of graduation, and major?
    • For what are you applying? (scholarship, graduate school, medical school, etc. And please, if you are applying to graduate school, tell me what for, such as, to get an MA in sociology, a PhD in biology. )
    • How long have I known you (years/months), and what is/are my relationship(s) to you (instructor, advisor, etc.)
    • Which class(es) of mine have you taken, what final grade(s) did I assign you, and how did you distinguish yourself in these class(es)?
    • What are some of your academic accomplishments?
    • What are some of your nonacademic accomplishments?
    • Why are you asking me, in particular, to write this letter? (i.e., I can comment on your writing based on your near-perfect score on a paper; we spent many office hours talking about your passion for the history of science; you took many meticulous measurements in my lab and would like me to comment on your hand-skills for dental school; etc.)
    • What makes you particularly qualified for this position/honor/award? (Don’t be modest, that doesn’t help me.)
    • What are your long-term goals, and will this position/honor/award help? If so, how?
    • Is there anything that you are unable or uncomfortable mentioning in your application that I can do so for you? For example, did you work full-time while going to school full-time making your high GPA all the more impressive? Maybe you experienced a tragedy during one semester that I could mention as a way to explain your poor academic performance that semester? Or, perhaps you are the first in your family to go to college? Faced unusual circumstances that demonstrate your resiliency? Maybe you are a leader in an extracurricular activity, spending lots of time doing something impressive but that isn’t evident from your academic record?

Be sure to send me an email reminder about a week before the deadline, if you haven’t heard from me. I’m happy for the reminder, as one of my biggest fears as a professor is missing a deadline for a letter of recommendation and ruining a wonderful opportunity for you.

When you hear back from the program, please let me know if you get the position, acceptance, opportunity. I really enjoy when students stay in touch and keep me posted on their career paths. Your stories not only keep me motivated as an educator, but also provide inspiration for the students coming behind you. I do share your stories… anonymously, of course.