For the most part, I only write letters of recommendation for students with whom I have a consistent working relationship, or I feel I can endorse strongly. Please respect my decision if I say no; you don’t want a lukewarm letter.
Writing letters of recommendation is one of the best things a professor does. It’s a way to reconnect with past students and play a part in their future plans. However, it can also quickly get out of control—not just the time spent crafting the letters themselves, but the correspondence back and forth to negotiate all the details and information.
So, if you’ve asked me for a letter, and I’ve agreed to provide you with a recommendation, please take the time to read what follows, since I’m going to be taking the time to write for you.
Please include and take into consideration the following:
- Please give me at least three weeks of notice (if you don’t, I may not be able to produce the letter). Four or more weeks would be even better.
- The address of where I should send the letters and a stamped, addressed envelope (or I can put the letter in a university envelope, if you prefer) -OR- the website and instructions about how to complete the evaluation.
- The dates you need them to ARRIVE to where they need to be. Do not write “as soon as possible”: give me exact dates.
- Dates and names of the courses you have taken with me and when (example: Spanish 350, Spring 2017). Make sure to include this specific information – I am always asked how long I have known students.
- Any information given to you by the organization/university for which I am writing the letter: do they have guidelines for recommenders? If so, include them.
- A copy of your resumé or curriculum vitae.
- A personal statement about why you are applying for this particular program or scholarship. Why are you applying for this program or award or honor or opportunity? The more you can tell me the better, and the more generous and enthusiastic you are with your own prose the more I’m likely to be with mine.
- Any other pertinent materials that you think might be helpful to me.
All of these materials will help me to write an informed, concrete letter of recommendation for you. This will help you in the long run as I will not write a generic letter of recommendation, but rather a very specific one that is tailored to you, your interests, and your strengths as a student.