I am frequently asked to write letters of recommendation for students. I'm generally happy to write them. However, to make the process effective for both of us, there's some information I'd like you to be aware of.
I will not take requests for college recomendations after October 15th or after I have recieved 15 requestes to write recomendations; whichever comes first. All recomendations will be written and submitted to guidence by the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
A letter of recommendation that says "Sally took my course in X and got a grade of Y" is not a powerful letter. For most things that you apply for (colleges, jobs, internships, scholarships), you will send a transcript, so the selection committee reading your application will know what grade you got in different classes. You want a letter that can say more.
Most selection committees want to know something about your character from someone who knows you well. Some of the things they might be interested in include:
If you and I have not had a working relationship where I might know some of those things about you, I can probably only write the "she took my course X and got a grade of Y" letter. If that's the case, you might want to think about whether there's a better person to ask.
Sometimes, you need a letter of recommendation and there's no one better to ask, in which case I'm happy to write you the letter I can, even if it's the not-so-strong one. Everyone has to start somewhere.
No matter what, please remember I will be honest and give my full opinion about you and the observations I have made of you in the time I have known you. Consider this before asking me for a recomendation.
The process works best if you do the following:
As happy as I am to write letters of recommendation, they take time, which is always a scarce resource. I will feel awful if I miss your deadline, but you will feel worse. A friend of mine from high school missed didn't get into a great college because someone forgot to send a letter of recommendation. Don't let that happen to you! So, nag:
Naturally, it's not pleasant to nag, but with a little effort you can do it kindly and politely, particularly since I've asked you to nag me. A simple email saying something like the following is fine.
I just wanted to remind you that the letter of recommendation to MIT is due next Friday. Thanks!