One important part of my job is supporting students in their continued study and future careers. To that end, I am honored to serve as a reference or write letters of recommendation for jobs, internships, and graduate programs. If you are thinking of asking me for a letter, please read the following policy carefully.
Should you ask me?
First, should you ask me for a letter of a recommendation? While putting together your application for a job or further study, you should think about what will create the strongest possible file. Enthusiastic, detailed letters from relevant references play an important part in that process.
Before asking me, here are some questions you should ask yourself and ideas to consider:
How well do I know you? Would I be better able than other faculty, mentors, or supervisors to speak to your strengths, in and outside of the classroom? I can write a stronger letter if I can speak positively about your professional aspirations, work ethic, writing and critical thinking skills, intellectual curiosity, creativity, leadership and communication skills, maturity, and dedication.
What is the environment in which I know you? Did you participate meaningfully in class? Have you spoken with me during student hours? A final grade, in the absence of other interactions, is rarely sufficient for me to write about you and your work.
However, because most programs will ask me to rank you in comparison to my other students, a final course grade is necessary for me to write a recommendation letter. In other words: I cannot write a letter for a student who has not yet completed one of my courses or worked with me in a research or mentoring capacity.
If you plan to ask for a recommendation letter, I ask for two courtesies from you:
Please give me at least two weeks' notice to write your letter. Allowing two weeks' time before the deadline will ensure that I have time between my other, pre-existing obligations to write a thoughtful letter on your behalf.
If presented a choice, please be sure to waive your right to see the letter. While I will only agree to write a letter if I can honestly endorse your candidacy, programs will put more faith in my praise if they know it is confidential.
What I need from you
To support a smooth process, you should gather all the relevant information to share with me:
Submission process: Will I fill out an online form, e-mail my letter to a specific contact, or upload a document in Interfolio?
Deadline: Is there a program deadline, or are applications evaluated on a rolling basis?
Your application materials, including, but not necessarily limited to: CV/resume, transcript, application form, essay, writing sample. If you will not have the materials completed two weeks before the deadline, you are very welcome to send draft materials.
Additional information: Is there anything in particular that you would hope I highlight in a letter? If so, please ask! Is there a connection between my course or career experiences and the opportunity that I should emphasize? Are there circumstances beyond the application, such as personal and health challenges, that account for weaknesses in your transcript or gaps in your resumé? While you are never expected to share such details with me, I am happy to address such obstacles in a letter.
Some opportunities will not ask for letters, but rather, a list of references (names and contact information of people willing to be contacted on your behalf). You should ask permission to list someone's name as a reference before doing so. If you want to list me as a reference, please send me relevant application materials once they're complete, so that I might reference them if contacted to speak about your application.
Thank you for taking the time to read this policy. I will be rooting for you!
This recommendation policy is inspired by and adapted from Kai Thaler's example.