Requesting a Recommendation Letter

Will you write a letter for me?

The most important factor in a persuasive letter is that the person writing the letter knows you well, and has worked closely with you in several contexts. If we have worked together on something beyond you taking my course (e.g. research projects, teaching assistantships, MS project committees, dissertation advisees), then I am happy to write a letter for you. However, if you have worked more closely with another faculty member, their letter will be more useful for your application.

When should l ask for a letter?

As soon as you know you need it! Please give me as much time as possible, but at least a full week, to prepare your letter. I will send all letters directly to the organization you are applying to.

How do I ask for a letter?

Send me an email titled “Rec Letter Request”. In the body of your email, tell me what you are applying for and when the deadline is for the letter. Include the following as separate pdf attachments to the email:

  • your CV
  • any other documents you are submitting with your application (personal statement, transcript, etc.)
  • a “how do we know each other” document that lists bullet points for
    • what year we met
    • which of my courses you’ve taken, and in which semesters
    • which research projects we’ve worked on together, and in which semesters
    • if I was on your MS or PhD committee, and in which semester you proposed or defended
    • (PhD students only) a 2 sentence summary of your dissertation work
    • any other details you want me to include about how we know each other
  • a “rec letter outline” document that lists bullet points for
    • why are you applying for this?
    • how does this application fit into your long range goals?
    • what skills or character traits do you want me to highlight in the letter?
    • what evidence do I have that will allow me to speak to those skills or traits? anecdotes or stories are especially useful here =)

Other tips:

Don’t assume I will remember something if you don’t include it.

Don’t be modest! Now is the time to brag about yourself. Only you and I will see the materials you send me.

Make sure that I get your email request before I get an email from an automated system requesting a letter for you.