Requesting a Letter of Recommendation
I am committed to assisting students in their academic and professional pursuits, and I am happy to support you with recommendation letters provided that you 1) give me enough lead time (I like to have a month if possible) and 2) follow the directions below, being careful not to skip any steps. This may involve considerable work on your part but I believe the letter I write will be much stronger for your effort.
Note: I will only write recommendations for students who waive their right to view the recommendation. Recommendations carry little weight when the student has not waived this right.
Read "Letters of Recommendation for Graduate School: Student Guide" from Dickinson College. It gives you a quick overview of what you should keep in mind and what you should do. I have slightly modified their list of materials (see below).
Read "Letters of Recommendation for Graduate School: For Faculty" from Harvard College. This will help you better understand what kind of information will be useful to me when I write your letter.
- Send me:
- A detailed and specific list of strengths, qualities, etc., you would like me to emphasize in your letter along with detailed and specific examples that reveal these strengths and qualities. Students often have trouble with this last element, and give me a list of only very general strengths without the kind of specific evidence that would make them stand out from other applicants. Remember, as the Harvard piece says, my recommendation letter should present a well-documented evaluation, providing sufficient evidence and information to help a selection committee in making its decision. Mention specific assignments, essays, exams, events etc. that you believe demonstrate the qualities you want me to discuss; don't just say, "I performed well on homework and exams." My memory has faded with age and I need your assistance if I am going write a convincing letter.
My recommendation will generally be organized around 1) scholarly capabilities, intellectual preparation and promise of productive research, 2) relevant professional experience or preparation specific to a proposed project, and 3) personal character. I will obviously have in mind my own list of strengths and examples to support them, but the more you specifics you provide me with the better will be your recommendation. Avoid modesty.
- Your resume. Feel free to add additional elements to your professional resume as you see fit.
- An unofficial copy of your transcripts.
Please assemble all these materials and send them to me in a single email if possible. If it turns out that you want to apply to an additional program after you send me your materials, I can handle that. If materials trickle in over time, I have a hard time keeping straight what you are asking me to do.