Need a Reference Letter?
Dr. Bill Young, UT Computer ScienceOffice: GDC 7.810; Office Phone: 512-471-9782;
I am usually happy to write a reference letter for current and former students. The strength of the letter depends on how well I know you. Sometimes a weak letter is worse than no letter at all, so it's up to you to do your best to inform me of your positive attributes. The more I know, the better the letter that I can write. Of course, you should not request a letter from me if you had issues of scholastic dishonesty in my class.
If possible, let me know well in advance that you will be needing a letter. Feel free to visit me in my office or call me, but an email is also fine. The first thing to do in your email is to remind me of who you are. It's quite likely that I will remember you. But, I have had many thousands of students over my years of teaching and I can't remember everyone. Try to jog my memory, perhaps with an incident or characteristic that distinguishes you. Especially, tell me what classes you had with me, in what semesters, and how you did in the classes.
Let me say it again: The more you can tell me about yourself the better the letter I can write. Please supply me with as much as possible of the following:
- a picture of you is helpful, particularly if I don't know you well, to remind me who you are
- your resume
- an informal copy of your transcript
- a statement of purpose, if you've written one for your application
- a statement to me of anything you think is impressive or notable about yourself that you'd like me to mention or highlight
- an explanation of bad info that you'd like me to reference (e.g., your GPA isn't great because you got mono your freshman year but you've had a 4.0 every semester since)
It's perfectly OK to send me several glowing paragraphs about your accomplishments. I may even copy them wholesale into the letter. Of course, be honest. But don't be bashful. You know your accomplishments better than I do. I will always edit what you write, but you can probably sing your praises better than I can.
Also, give me as much context about your need as possible.
If you're applying to an organization or for a scholarship with which I may not be familiar, tell me about it, or give me a link to their website.
- what is the letter for (job, scholarship, society membership)
- how do I submit it
- what's the deadline
Sometimes it's not a letter that you need but a personal reference. For example, some potential employers prefer to call your references. It looks really bad if I don't know who you are. So make sure that you inform me to expect the call and provide me in advance with the same sort of information requested above.
You may need some of the following information about me for your application:
Name: William D. Young, Ph.D.
Title: Senior Lecturer and Research Scientist
Address: University of Texas Computer Science Dept, 2317 Speedway, Stop D9500, Austin, TX 78712-1757
UT EID: youngwd
Very important: After I have agreed to write your letter, remind me regularly until I tell you it's been done. I don't mind a gentle email reminder every few days. I get busy and put things off. It's a favor to me if you remind me, and it's much better for you because the letter will actually get written.
Best of luck to you in your pursuits!