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Posts Tagged ‘Academic Advising’

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.

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When I started my first position as a full-time faculty member last fall there were obvious challenges related to preparing, teaching, and grading for three classes instead of one but the experience itself was nothing new since I had been teaching for years.  The introduction of advising to my routine this fall, however, has been a very different experience.

The first time that I taught I had years of experience as a student to draw on for examples of what kind of teacher I wanted to be.  Beyond my experiences with various mentors over the years, I am quickly realizing that I was never advised about choosing courses as an undergraduate because I had a copy of the graduation requirements and I knew what I needed to take.  Magnifying this inexperience is the fact that I am still learning about the requirements at my institution, which are sometimes fluid as courses in various departments substitute for others.

As a result, each meeting with a student has felt inefficient as I hurriedly searched for answers to their questions on the school’s somewhat ineffective website.  Through this process I am learning a lot but I wish that my education in these areas did not have to come at the price of looking incompetent and, worse, potentially directing students down the wrong paths.

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