Coaching Students Who Request a Letter of Recommendation
Every faculty member gets requests from students for letters of recommendation, for internships, off-campus study, graduate school and jobs. Here is an example of a best practice in pro-actively coaching advisees or students who may request such a letter. Similarly, this may be something you opt to include in an advising syllabus, or on your professional webpage.
Sample email to students who may request a letter of recommendation
Dear [student], You may eventually ask me to support you with a letter of recommendation for a job, internship, or off-campus study. I will gladly do this for you, when appropriate, and when you follow the guidelines below. Please know that I may not always be the best person to recommend you, and I will be truthful with you when you ask about this. We can brainstorm other people who you might approach. I need several things in order to write a good recommendation letter:
- Time before the deadline – While I recognize that sometimes opportunities present themselves and you have little time to respond, it's best to give me several weeks' lead time. A month is a common courtesy. And I need the deadline by which the letter needs to be mailed or the online form submitted.
- Description of the internship or other opportunity you are applying for – either send by email or come to my office with printed information about the opportunity and explain it to me face to face.
- A copy of all relevant documents you are sending with your application such as a resume and a statement. Provide me a copy of anything specific you will be including in your application that I could make reference to in my letter. I like to shape my letters to reinforce what you say on your application.
- A copy of the directions for the recommendation letter. Do they ask for a generic "letter of support" or do they direct the letter writer to focus on anything in particular?
- The name of the person I should be writing the letter to and an address. Any time the person who will be deciding on you is named, I should personalize the letters. Also, if it is to be mailed, I will need an addressed, stamped envelope.
Tips for Writing Letters of Recommendation
The Writing Lab provides this excellent advice: http://www.grinnell.edu/academic/writinglab/faculty/samples .