Serious business – your letter of recommendation

(Honestly, this is time consuming).

I was talking to Claire the other day in Soma, and realized that my past few posts may have come across like not-so-fun lectures to recalcitrant prospective students.  I don’t think this one will be any different, but I don’t mean to sound stern, it’s just that topics like, say, securing letters of recommendation (for example) are serious business!  So, continuing on in my Eeyore-like blogging style, here are some things NOT to do when asking for a letter of recommendation:

1. Don’t assume that your letter is the number one priority for the faculty member.  This one is common sense–be sensitive to the fact that faculty are really busy people who have a lot of other things to do.  This means don’t pressure them once you’ve asked, and definitely don’t nag.  Remember, they are doing you a favor by writing for you.

2. Ask well in advance of your deadline.  Related to #1, make sure to be considerate of the faculty member’s time.  Don’t expect a “yes” (or at least, not an enthusiastic one) if you ask for a letter just a week or so before the deadline.  At least a month’s notice makes sense.

3. Provide relevant information about yourself, your program, whatever you are applying for.  Don’t make the faculty member mind-read.  Provide a copy of your CV, a writing sample, a description of whatever you are applying for, and/or any other materials that will help the faculty member to write the best letter he or she can.

4. Most importantly–always say “thank you” and mean it.  Writing a thoughtful letter of recommendation takes a significant amount of time and energy.  Always remember to acknowledge the help you’ve been given in a polite and meaningful way.  Don’t assume that the faculty member knows you are grateful–say it!  Write a card.  Stop by and say “thank you” personally.