For Students

Letter of Recommendation Policy

I take letter-writing seriously and seek to provide schools and employers with honest, relevant, and reliable information about you. When I invest time in writing a letter, I will also act as your advocate. In other words, I don’t just recommend anyone. If I believe I am unable to provide a strong letter for you, then I will tell you so. (Arguing the point is unlikely to lead to an outcome you desire.)

As a matter of policy, I will only write letters for students who:

  • have earned an A or A- in a small (35-person or fewer) course I have taught, or
  • worked for me for at least 40 hours over a semester(ish) period or more, or
  • has in some other way developed an actual personal relationship with me.

Earning a good grade is a necessary but not sufficient condition for my writing a strong letter for you. My letters are honest and detailed, and an A- student who demonstrated leadership, participated in class, made clear strides in his or her work, and simply had a bad day on the final examination impresses me more than a student who said little, showed disdain for the course and his or her colleagues, put forward the minimum effort, and still somehow managed an A.

If you are still interested in asking me to write a letter, then please email me after the course is over and you have received your final grade. I will ask you to provide me with:

  1. A personal statement about your goals, the college or other position to which you are applying, and how what you have learned in my class shows your aptitude for the position.
  2. A copy of your CV or resume.
  3. Any materials that you have prepared for the application.
  4. Clear, idiot-proof instructions for how to submit the letter. (Bear in mind that sending a recommendation electronically is vastly easier than mailing a letter.)

You should also fill in this online form, which helps me keep track of everything that I’ll need to make the case for you.

Letter-writing is a bit of a bargain, so here’s your end of the bargain:

Please give me at least a month’s notice when you require a letter to be written. Once I have a letter ‘on file’ for you, that timeline can shorten a little bit, but remember that professors aren’t always next to their computers. I tend to write letters in a batch (about 5-6 at a time), which happens when I’m bored or right before a cluster of deadlines.

I do not mail letters of recommendation unless absolutely necessary–mailing a letter takes about 15-20 minutes of effort (at least), which is a lot to ask of me when emailing one takes about 15-20 seconds of effort.

I do not give letters of recommendation to students. The letter is a service I provide to employers on your behalf. I consider it confidential and inappropriate to disclose the letter to the person being recommended.