I’m generally happy to write letters of recommendation or to serve as a job reference for students who have taken my courses and/or done research with me. Following are some instructions and suggestions for students seeking letters from me:
- Talk to me first. Send me an email or come by my office to let me know what you’re applying for (grad school? summer programs? grants? jobs?), roughly when deadlines are, and why you’re interested. We can talk through any questions or concerns you have, and I’m always willing to give advice on programs to look at and how to navigate the process. This especially holds for grad school applications.
- Fill out this form once. If you’re asking me for a letter, I probably already know you pretty well as a student. This lets me know other aspects of your life and achievements that might be relevant, and reminds me of things I may have forgotten.
- Fill out this form once for each program you’re applying to. This assures that I have all your info in one place and can track deadlines easily.
- If your application requires some sort of personal statement or essay, send me a draft of that so I can write a more targeted letter. If you’re applying for jobs, a copy of your resume is useful too.
- Non-Swarthmore students: Email me a copy of your transcript (unofficial is fine).
- Remind me! It’s easy to lose track of letter deadlines, especially if you’ve asked me way in advance. Send me reminder emails 2 weeks, 1 week, and 2 days ahead of the deadline (unless/until you get notified that I’ve submitted it). Don’t worry – it’s helpful, not annoying.
- Keep in touch! Let me know where you got in, where you got interviews, how the program went, etc.
- I’m finding more and more often that students are giving me thank you gifts for writing them letters. While I appreciate the sentiment, gifts are completely unnecessary – writing letters like this is part of my job, and I’m happy to do it. A thank you note, email, or card is always welcome!
- Give me as much advance notice as possible, ideally a month or more. That said, do feel free to ask if last-minute opportunities come up, especially if I’ve written for you before.
- Start early, particularly for grad school applications. If you’d like me to help edit your personal statement, make sure there’s plenty of time for a few drafts to go back and forth.
- Don’t worry about asking for too many letters – once I’ve written one, the rest are easy, especially if they’re for the same type of program.
- I’ll do my best to keep track of deadlines, but reminders are always helpful — check in about a week before you letter is due to make sure it’s on my radar.
- I can write the strongest letters for people who’ve actively participated in class discussions, attended office hours regularly, done research with me, served as a TA or grader, turned in outstanding work, and/or shown resourcefulness in overcoming challenges in class. It’s fine if you struggled in my class; if you came to office hours, worked hard, and showed improvement I can still write you a good letter. What’s most important is that I’ve gotten to know you so I have something substantive to say.