Letter of Recommendation Policy

Looking for a Letter of Recommendation? Please read this entire page before contacting me about writing a letter for you.

Helping my students (and former students) secure internships, scholarships, placement in graduate schools, and post-college jobs is part of my job, and I want you to succeed. Writing a carefully crafted letter of support is a time-consuming process, and it requires good information from you with plenty of time to prepare.

It’s always a good idea to get letters of recommendation from faculty who know you and your work well. With few exceptions, I write letters only for students who have taken at least one course with me and who received at least an A- in that course. If my only experience with you was in a large course and we never had a conversation, or if you took a course with me your freshman year and are now a senior, I’m probably not the best person to write your letter. You should be memorable for me—more than just a grade in my gradebook.

If you still think I’m the best person to write on your behalf:

  1. Set up a meeting with me at least a month before your deadline and ask if I’m comfortable writing a great letter of recommendation for you. If I have reservations, I’ll tell you. If I say no, respect the decision; a bad or ambivalent letter of recommendation is far worse than no letter.
  2. I need a minimum of two weeks to write a good letter of recommendation. Before that two-week window begins, I should have an email with all of the following materials in my inbox:
    • The deadline for the letter
    • Instructions on how to submit the letter. If this depends on your submitting the application online before I get an email sent to me, your submission must be complete at least one week before the deadline so I have that email.
    • An up-to-date CV
    • A description of notable interactions that you think would be helpful to mention (supervising your teaching in X course, teaching you in Y class, an amazing paper you wrote on Z, working with you on a production, etc.). If you want me to focus on teaching, research, collegiality, etc., let me know.
    • A detailed description of what you’re applying for! If a link is available for additional information online, include that.
    • A paragraph that explains why you think this particular opportunity is well-suited to you. What are your career goals? What will you bring to this opportunity? What will you gain from it? How will it help propel your career forward? You can add to this if there is particular information that you think I should know about or include in the letter.
    • A copy of your personal statement or cover letter for this opportunity. A draft is fine, and I’m happy to chat with you about your project description, abstract, personal statement, etc.
    • *If I have to mail your letter, make sure I have all of this information AND completed envelopes with postage at least three weeks before the deadline.
  3. If you have many letters going out, consider a dossier service like Interfolio. I can submit a general letter, then you can control when it goes out and be assured that your deadlines are met.
  4. I’ll send you a note saying the letter was submitted. If you haven’t received that three days before the deadline, don’t hesitate to send me a friendly reminder.

I strongly encourage you to waive your right to see my recommendation so that it is confidential. The purpose of the confidential letter is to ensure the recipient of a frank evaluation without reservations, and confidential letters carry more weight. I will write the best letter possible, but I must be honest in my assessment of your abilities and suitability for the opportunity or program. If you’re concerned about what I might say, I’m probably not the best choice for a letter writer.

Doctoral students & the job market: This is a very competitive market. When I write a letter on your behalf, I need to be able to detail substantive progress toward completing the dissertation, and to enumerate precisely what chapters are done and when you’re likely to defend. As a general rule, if you don’t have at least two chapters in very good shape, you’re not ready for the job market yet. If you have questions about this, I encourage you to come talk with me.

And remember, please let me know about your acceptances! It’s always lovely to hear about student successes—especially if I helped you get there!