I generally only write recommendation letters for students I know well enough to write a meaningful recommendation. This means that you should have attended one of my seminars or research group, or if you were in a larger lecture course or my advisee that we had several longer conversations about your work and/or professional goals. If this is not the case, even if you were a good student, I probably do not know you well enough to write a good recommendation letter. Recommendation letters that are superficial and just based on general information that does not go beyond what is in your resume or transcripts can do more harm than good. In such cases it would make more sense to find someone else who knows you better to write a recommendation letter.
Please ask me before providing my name as a reference on applications, and inform me when you send out applications I have agreed to serve as a reference for. Otherwise I cannot guarantee that I will be able to respond positively and in a timely manner.
Additionally, please ask me at least one month in advance (ideally even earlier if it is for graduate school) if you need a recommendation letter. In order to write the letter and make it as strong and detailed as possible, I will need the following (ideally all in one email or document):
- A list of schools and programs (or jobs) you are applying to (exact names) with the deadlines and how the letter will be submitted (online, by mail, etc.)
- Your resume and unofficial transcript
- A brief description of why you are interested in each program (or job) and what you would like me to highlight in the letters regarding your fit for each program (or job)
- A reminder of the courses you took with me, when (which year/semester), papers or presentations you prepared for the class (titles, topics), which grade you received in my classes, and anything else about our working relationship/work together that you think should be mentioned in the letters.
I always notify students when I submit the letters – if you have not heard from me a day before the deadline please do not hesitate to remind me. There is no need to remind me before then though – if we communicated about this your deadlines will be in my calendar, and I typically submit the letters close to the deadline. Finally, I am always interested to hear about the outcome of your applications and what you decided to do in the end, so please keep me posted!