Letters of Recommendation: Guidelines

If you’re seeking a letter of recommendation it means you are applying for something — a job, graduate school, a fellowship or honor. That is terrific. I want you to succeed and your best shot at doing that is if every part of your application shines. It takes little time to write a positive letter; it takes a long time and a lot of effort to write a positive and evocative letter. Here are my guidelines:

  • If you earned less than an A- in my class then I probably cannot write you an outstanding letter.
  • If you ask me to write for you and I cannot write you an outstanding letter then I will tell you. You can then decide whether I am the best person to write for you.
  • If I am writing on your behalf for the first time then I need at least a month’s notice during the semester and longer when school is not in session.
  • If I have written for you before and you are applying to something new then I need at least two weeks’ notice during the semester and longer when school is not in session.
  • Once I have agreed to write then please send me the following materials:
    1. Your resume
    2. A personal statement if you have one
    3. Your transcript
    4. Your final paper for the class(es) you took with me
    5. A list of which class(es) you took with me, when you took them and who your TA was for those classes
    6. Any details I need to know about what you are applying for
    7. Clear instructions on how to submit the letter.
  • One week before the letter is due, please remind me by re-sending the email with the materials and submission instructions. If I have not submitted before two business days prior to the submission then please reply to that email and remind me. Then also remind me the day it is due (again, assuming I have not yet submitted.)
  • If there is a teaching assistant for the class then I will likely share a draft of the letter with the TA for feedback/additions. If you would prefer that I not then please let me know in advance.
  • I expect that you will tell me the outcome of your application when you know it. I care about you and would like to know how you fare.

Regardless of whether I write for you, I wish you the very best.