University of Connecticut University of UC Title Fallback Connecticut

INTRODUCTION:

Writing letters of reference or recommendation is part of my job, always an honor, and usually a pleasure because it allows me a chance to reflect on the rewards of being a teacher.  I would not be writing such letters if others had not done the same for me.  They “paid it forward,” and so I continue to do so: (for more, link to  Memoir of Mentorship.)

SEND TO ME:

Most letters are now submitted online.  Writing one for a specific student for a specific program/job/position usually takes considerable time: about a half hour for review, two hours to compose a good template letter, and about a half hour to customize for each school/similar position and deal with the software.   If you need hard copy, please be sure to send pre-addressed stamped envelopes and whatever forms need signing.
Generally speaking, here’s what I need from you:
  • APPLICATION FACTS:  What specific program/job/position are you applying to?  Saying you need a reference for this company, or are seeking a masters degree at some university is not enough. What specific degree/position are your pursuing in what specific department/university?  What are the deadlines?   Make a clear list starting with the date.
  • YOUR PERSONAL STATEMENT TO ME:  Use these three headings,and then write a paragraph or two for each:
    • Our History:  Provide paragraph or so, reminding me when we first met, what courses we had together and in what semester, what grades you got, and the title/brief description of any special project you turned in.  Quoting comments I made on such projects is especially helpful, but not necessary.  Also helpful is a mugshot, which will save me the trouble of looking one up on courses long past. This is especially important for students who have been gone from UConn for a while.
    • Your Goals:  A statement of your current GENERAL short-term goals (i.e.  grad school, internship, summer program) in the context of your current GENERAL long-term goals (i.e. a career in….). In other words, why is this a logical step in a life plan?
    • Your Application:  Explain why the SPECIFIC program you are applying to will help you meet the short term goal you just stated in #2 above. In other words, explain why is this the “right” program for you at this stage (perhaps someone you know, a place you want to be, or a tailor-made, “perfect” fit of a job/program. You may need different statements for different programs.
  • YOUR RESUME: Make one if you don’t have a good one. The details don’t matter.
  • YOUR UNOFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT: Provide an unofficial transcript. I’m only interested in placing the grades you received from me in the larger context. I will not be citing specifics.

YOUR MONITORING RESPONSIBILITY

I expect you to keep track of hard deadlines, reminding me a few days ahead of each by email.

OPTIONAL WAIVERS:

  • FERPA: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974.  This act prevents me from using/releasing information about grades or GPA without your written consent per UCONN FERPA Rules. So, If you want me to be specific about grades, please complete the release form http://ferpa.uconn.edu/forms/  Otherwise skip this step, and I can be general.
  • FOI .  Freedom of Information Act.  On most applications you have the option to waive the right to see my letter. This is usually a good idea, especially if you think the letter will be supportive, rather than merely an obligatory hurdle to get past.  If you waive the right, the recipient (employer/school) will know that I am being candid. If you do not, they will read my remarks as being more guarded.