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:
- 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.
- 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.