Letter of Recommendation Guidelines


Letters of reference are important elements in any graduate, job, or professional school application and I am generally very happy to write one on behalf of students I have taught or worked with.  Your letters of reference represent a unique opportunity for someone other than yourself to communicate your best attributes to a potential employer or school.  These letters can be very influential in the selection process and I therefore, take this task very seriously.

While I am always happy to help you reach your personal goals, I note that writing good, individually tailored letters of reference can be very time consuming.  I get numerous requests for letters throughout the year, particularly during Fall Quarter, and would therefore appreciate some help from applicants to make the process easier.

First, I ask you to think hard about why you want me to write you a letter. What special things can I say that will set you apart from other people?  If you can’t think of an answer to this question, you may want to think harder about whether I should be writing you a letter at all.

Second, if after all that you still would like me to write a letter on your behalf, please consider the following:


  1. You must make your request for a letter a minimum of 3 weeks prior to when it is due.  This is particularly true in Fall quarter when graduate school applications results in many requests.  I will likely refuse to write a letter without appropriate lead time.
  2. I will request from you:
    • a copy of your transcript
    • a copy of your CV
    • a copy of a written statement explaining what your goals for the letter are (e.g. why are you applying to graduate school?)
    • a written explanation about why you’ve asked me for a letter (e.g. what is it that you think I can communicate about you?)
    • a written statement/list telling me things about yourself that I might not know that would be relevant to how I will construct the letter
  3. When contacting me, please schedule a time to meet with me ASAP.  I will not write letters unless I have a chance to review your materials and talk with you.
  4. Your communications with me regarding letter requests should be professional and well organized.

Finally, I will be very direct with you about the type of letter that I can write on your behalf.  If I feel as though I can’t write you a positive letter, I will let you know.  It will then be up to you to decide if you still want a letter from me.

Comments are closed.