Recommendation Letters FAQ

I would like to ask you to write a recommendation letter for me. Will you write one?

It depends on how well I know you, and whether I feel I can write a good letter for you. You need to have done well in my course if you are going to ask for a recommendation (at least a mark of 8/10 or above) and have a good overall grade (at least 6.8/10 or above).

You can ask me whether I am willing to write you a letter in person or by e-mail. I always have my office hours posted on my webpage, so it should be easy to know when you can find me. If you are asking via e-mail, please do the following:
  • Remind me of who you are, what course(s) you took from me, the dates of the course(s) (e.g. Spring 2010, Fall 2010) and what mark(s) you received.
  • Describe briefly the graduate/professional program or job for which you are applying, and what kind of information the admissions office or employer is looking for in a reference letter.
  • The deadline(s) for the letter, more specifically, give me a precise date (e.g. March 6) by which you would want the letter to be put in the mail.
If you ask me to write a letter by e-mail, then it is highly likely that I will still ask you to come see me in person. In particular, I may or may not agree to write you a letter based solely on your e-mail.

IMPORTANT (note about deadlines): You absolutely MUST ask me at least ONE MONTH in advance of your deadline(s) if you want me to write a letter. I will NOT accept last-minute requests or any requests with less notice than one month.

Why do I have to come meet with you in person? Can't we do everything by e-mail?

If I ask you to come see me in person, it is because I feel that I need more background information. It may also be that some time has passed since you were in my course, so I want to meet with you to get reacquainted, and to ask you about what you have done since you have been in my course.

It is also possible that I will ask for some time to look over your supporting materials (see next question below) and think it over before giving you a final answer.

How should I prepare for our meeting? What do I need to bring?

You should make sure that I have the following supporting material. You can either send these in electronic format to me via e-mail beforehand, or (preferred) bring me hard copies when we meet in person.
  • Your CV, which includes your current contact information (e-mail address). Be sure to include information about your academic or non-academic honors and awards, any employment experience, and any other skills.
  • Your undergraduate transcript. Make sure to highlight the course(s) you took from me, and the mark(s) that you received.
  • A brief (less than 1 page, single-spaced) written statement about your future goals, and why this application/letter is of importance to you.
  • IMPORTANT: You MUST give me an envelope containing the following:
    • A list of the programs/jobs for which you are applying, including deadline information and, if applicable, the websites or e-mail addresses where I am supposed to electronically submit your reference letter.
    • An addressed and stamped envelope for each program/job which requires a printed/hard copy of the reference letter, along with any forms which need to be filled out.
    NOTE: The last item above is important. I will NOT spend the time to find and affix stamps, and/or to address envelopes for you! Also, make sure that you have already filled out any forms which you are allowed to fill out. Make sure that you clearly separate the application materials for each program/job by organizing them.

How will I know when you have sent the letters? Can I email you?

If and when I agree to write the letter, I will give you my best estimate of when I expect to have it done. You are welcome to send me an email to ask me or remind me to do so. It is always my intention to send you e-mail to inform you that they are done, as soon as I have put the letters in the mail and/or sent off the letters electronically. It is always possible that I may forget to do this, so you are welcome to contact me if the date has passed and you have not heard from me.