Getting a Recommendation
Here are some tips for getting letters of recommendation, as suggested by Dr. Cline:
1. When selecting letter writers ask yourself "what could this person
say about me?". If your answer is "I got an A in his/her class but I
posed no questions in class and had no meetings outside of class",
is that what you want to be said in the letter? Perhaps it makes sense
to be more active in class and to meet with instructors, if for no
other reason, than just so there will exist people who know you.
2. Set up a meeting to discuss what you are requesting. Explain the
program(s) to which you are applying and why this is important for you.
Have a one or two page resume prepared and offer it.
3. Realize that you are asking someone to do something for you and
thus you should try to make it as easy as possible for them. In
addition to the resume, prepare a folder with all of the materials
necessary for the letter(s) to be written. Thus, if there are special forms
have those. On each, indicate the deadline for submission (if it
isn't already on it). Include stamped, addressed envelopes.
4. Try to collect all of this at just one time as opposed to spreading
out multiple requests over weeks. A letter writer can generally
produce many copies of a single letter at one time but a later
request requires that the letter be found, dates to be changed,
re-printing, and another trip to the department mail room. This
may sound minor but if you consider that a single person might make
requests for 10 letters and that there may be many people asking
the same person for letters (are you guessing who I'm thinking
about?), the extra time can get significant.
5. Lastly, avoid, if at all possible, last minute requests. It is
counter-effective to say "Please write a letter and make me
look good." at the same time as "I'm so silly. I should have
asked you for this long ago."
(6. Post lastly, if you actually get a position, send postcards to your
letter writers telling them about the work and expressing appreciation.)