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Planning Letter Requests

Typically half way through one of my upper division courses I will distribute a handout that speaks to letters of reference. Most students are not aware of the process. My handout spells out my wants. For instance, in a perfect world I expect a resume, a copy of the letter of intent, information about the courses that the student had with me and the earned grades, and any other important matter.

My advice is that the student needs to be organized. Make sure that the request is as painless as possible for the instructor. You do not want us to have to send you multiple emails for information. One year I had a former student not contact me after repeated emails. I wrote the letter as requested, but was not given the password to submit it.  After the deadline I bumped into him in the hallway and was met with a, “I didn’t need your letter after all.” I immediately informed him that this was rude and unprofessional. I will never write that student a letter again.

One very organized student sent me an excel spreadsheet with the programs, deadlines, and other matter in the spreadsheet. This was really useful as I was writing multiple letters for her. Some programs had online letter submissions and others didn’t. Then, add to that the assessments that you also have to include. The files can be unforgiving and multiple this by writing upwards of three dozen letters and you can see that it can get really busy.

Full-time regular faculty get paid (essentially) to write letter. Contingent faculty (sessionals/adjuncts) do not, so remember that a thank you card it appreciated by all. If you don’t have time to do so, then even an email is fine. And, by all means let the faculty know the outcome. If you would like to see my handout, please drop me an email. Happy to share it.

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