Every year I am asked to write letters of recommendation on behalf of undergraduates who have either done research in my lab or have been enrolled in one of my courses.
These letters can be in support of applications to graduate school, professional school, scholarships, internships, or any other activity for which a student would like me to act as a reference. It is typical for a faculty member writing letters of recommendation to create just one letter that a student can utilize for a variety of different purposes. Thus, the more information that you can provide me about yourself and the nature of the programs/awards to which you will be applying, the easier it will be for me to assist you by writing a positive and detailed letter on your behalf.
Because graduate and professional schools generally want letters of recommendation that speak to the candidate’s abilities and aptitude for postgraduate training, I need to have some degree of acquaintance with the skills, talents, and character of the students for whom I write letters of reference.
Obviously, I cannot write detailed and supportive letters for students whom I do not know well. For this reason, I generally write letters of support only for those students who have met at least one of the following prerequisites:
- They have been an active participant and earned a grade of “A” in at least one of my courses.
- They have successfully completed the PSY 400 Independent Research Course under my supervision.
- I have come to know them, their goals, and their character through some other capacity (e.g., they are active participants in the activities of the PSI CHI club for which I am the current faculty sponsor).
If you meet at least one of these pre-requisites and you would like me to consider writing a letter of recommendation on your behalf, I encourage you to contact me by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) at least 4 weeks before the deadline for which you need a letter of recommendation. When I receive your e-mail I will schedule a brief (15-20 minute) meeting with you to discuss your plans.
At this meeting, you should be prepared to concisely discuss your future goals and why you believe that I can help you accomplish these aspirations by writing a letter on your behalf. In particular, I would like you to provide me with the following materials (preferably in digital form) before this meeting:
- A current resume or curriculum vitae (CV)
- A current transcript of your academic grades
- A description of the types of programs to which you are applying. Are you applying to law school, medical school, or PhD programs in Social Psychology?
- You should be prepared to discuss the sorts of skills, attributes, and experiences that you possess which can speak directly to your future success in the endeavor for which I am writing a letter on your behalf.
If I agree to write a letter on your behalf I promise to write a supportive letter that will facilitate your progress toward your goals. However, to maintain the integrity of the recommendation process, I generally do not share these letters directly with the candidate.
If I agree to write you a letter of recommendation you will need to send me the following materials, at least 3 weeks before the date before which you wish me to mail your letter:
- A list of the actual programs to which you will be applying, including the websites or mailing addresses for submitting your letter, along with the corresponding deadlines for each program.
- Ideally you should send this information to me via e-mail as an attached Word file so that I can copy and paste the addresses directly into my letter.