Although my semester has ended, student requests for my time have not. One of my advisees recently asked for a letter of recommendation two days before the recommendation deadline, which brought back memories of my own undergraduate days. When I was talking to my undergraduate mentor about applying to graduate programs he gave me some advice that I think benefits everybody in the application process. While this advice is somewhat applicable to graduate students as well, since I deal solely with undergrads I also decided that it is time for a companion to Fabio’s Grad Skool Rulz. As a result, I give you the first of my Rulz for Undergradz*:
When you ask a professor for a letter of recommendation, you should provide the following information:
- The application deadline
- A brief statement about why you want to do whatever you are applying for. If your application requires a personal statement, a rough draft of that statement is acceptable for this purpose.
- A list of the courses you have taken with the professor and the grades that you earned in those courses.
- Your overall (and, if relevant or substantially different, major) GPA
If the recommendation can be submitted electronically, you should provide all of the above in a single e-mail along a relevant link to the electronic submission system. If a paper recommendation must be submitted, you should provide a hard copy of the information above in a folder with any recommendation forms and an envelope. You should also provide instructions about how the recommendation should be submitted. If the professor is supposed to send the application directly, you should provide a stamped, addressed envelope. If the professor is supposed to return the recommendation to you in a signed envelope, you should arrange a date and time to meet and pick up your recommendation.
By following these instructions, the process of writing recommendations is streamlined for professors, which can only help their impressions of the students they are recommending.
*The only problem with providing Rulz for Undergradz on a sociology blog is that most undergrads don’t read sociology blogs. To counteract this problem, print this post and hand it out to your advisees. Tell them that it came from the internet and they will be so impressed that one or two of them are bound to follow these guidelines, which should save you at least as much time as it took you to print the post and hand it out.