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.)


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.


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


  • 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  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.