I am often asked to write letters of recommendation for current and
former students. That is fine, and indeed I consider it to be part
of my job. However, I do ask that students requesting recommendations
from me follow the instructions and principles described herein.
Thank you, and good luck with your applications.
I can only write you a recommendation if I know you reasonably well,
e.g. I taught you in a class or supervised you on a project. Please
do not ask me for a recommendation if I do not know you well.
If you want me to write you a recommendation, then please first
ask me (by e-mail is fine) -- including
reminding me how we know each other, and
sending me your academic transcript(s), and
telling me when your deadline(s) are. I reserve the right to decline your
request (especially since I am now getting lots and lots of requests).
- If I agree, then I prefer to have at least a few
weeks (after receiving all the materials described
below) to write your recommendation. I may bend this requirement a
little, but the earlier you ask me, the better.
- In the event that you require multiple recommendations (e.g. for
multiple institutions, or multiple scholarships), be sure to inform me
of this with your initial request, and to provide information about
all of the recommendations together. (It is much easier for me to
write multiple recommendations all at once.)
- Except in very special circumstances, I will write only
confidential letters of recommendation, not open letters. (It is
virtually impossible to be honest and unbiased in a non-confidential
letter!) So, please assist me in maintaining confidentiality by
waiving your right with universities to
examine your recommendation letters, and by arranging for me to send my
recommendations directly to the institutions (either by web, or by
e-mail, or by hardcopy) rather than giving them to you.
If I know you well, then I usually will not need to talk to you before
completing your recommendation. However, in some circumstances I may
wish to discuss your studies and future plans with you.
I will contact you if this is the case.
If I agree to write you a recommendation, then please supply me with
the following materials:
Either put hardcopies of all of the above materials into a
single large-sized envelope (with your name
written on the outside) and give it to me, OR
you may e-mail me the materials in plain text or postscript or
pdf format (preferably with easily-identifiable filenames without
spaces, e.g. "SmithTranscript.pdf") all in a single
e-mail. You should not e-mail Microsoft Word
- A clear list of the place(s) to which you are applying,
and the deadline(s) by which I must complete the recommendation(s), and
whether my recommendation should be web-based, or by e-mail (provide
the e-mail address), or by hardcopy (provide addressed envelopes for
me to use; you do not need to provide postage stamps).
- Any special recommendation "instructions" which were
provided by the school/job to which you are applying.
- Up-to-date copies of all of your university transcripts.
To repeat: ALL, not just the most recent ones.
(An unofficial photocopy or printout or copy-and-paste is okay, but
make sure it includes your NAME.) This should also include a list
of all courses that you are currently taking.
- A copy of whatever other relevant information you have about
yourself, such as a C.V. and/or a "Statement of Research Plans"
and/or your GRE scores and/or the parts of the application that you
have already prepared about yourself. (You do not need to prepare
any additional written materials just for me, but you should give me
whatever you already have. Preliminary drafts are okay.)
- Your e-mail address and phone number, in case I need to ask you
- For schools using web-based applications, you should then
list me as a reference in your application so that I will hopefully
receive an automatic e-mail requesting my recommendation.
(Be sure to waive your right to examine the recommendation; see above.)
- Once you have completed all of the above,
and everything is all ready for me to go ahead
and complete all of your recommendations at once,
including registering me for any/all of the web-based applications,
then please e-mail me again to inform me of this. In this e-mail,
please also remind me when is your earliest application deadline
(hopefully at least a few weeks later).
- If you complete all of the above in a timely manner, then I will
probably manage to complete your recommendation(s) by the deadline(s).
However, it doesn't hurt for you to check on this, by e.g. enquiring
about the arrival of my recommendation with the school/job to which
you are applying, or (if necessary) by e-mailing me around the deadline
to make sure I've sent the recommendation.
- If any of the above is not clear, then you may
e-mail me for clarification.
- Note: I usually shred confidential documents once I am through
with them. So, if you require new recommendations at a later date,
then please repeat the above procedure in its entirety.
-- Jeffrey S. Rosenthal