Letters of Recommendation

Before asking me for a letter of recommendation, please read this in full.

Why are letters important?

A good letter of recommendation can help your application stand out from a pool of candidates. When I can write a strong letter in support of a student, I am always happy to do so. I believe that my role in helping you shape your future does not end when we leave the classroom, and like many faculty, I want to see you succeed.

What can I do to help you write me a letter?

Writing a good letter is time-consuming. It helps me tremendously to have all of the facts and enough time to write about them. If you want a letter from me, please:

  1. ask me in a timely manner (≥ one month of the deadine),
  2. explain to me what the application is all about (include links!),
  3. why you are interested in the thing you are applying to, and
  4. if accepted, what you hope to gain from the experience.

The purpose of this exercise is not to put obstacles in your path, but instead, to make it easy for me to write you the best letter that I can.

How do I know if you'll write me a good letter?

The short answer: I will never write a student a weak letter.

The longer answer: A letter from me will not help you if I cannot write you a strong one. Be prepared for the possibility that I will suggest that you seek a stronger letter writer than me. I don't say this to make you feel bad. Sometimes others are simply in a better position to discuss your qualities positively. Of course, having taken a class with me helps me to know you. But my best letters are reserved for students who have

Pro tip: in general, you probably should not assume that a letter writer will write you a strong letter. I have heard horror stories. The way to mitigate the risk of a bad letter is to ask for a "positive letter of recommendation."

OK, I get it. So how do I go about requesting a letter?

To request a letter of recommendation, please do the following in this order:

  1. Fill out this form.
  2. Send me an email with your request, addressing all of the points above. Be sure to attach your CV/resume.

I will acknowledge your request once both things have been done.

I did something I'm not proud of. Can you omit that thing from your letter?

Probably not.

Letters of recommendation form a "chain of trust" between letter writers and prospective schools or employers. I will not misrepresent your abilities. Doing so will not help you, it certainly does not help prospective employers, and it reflects poorly on me. By requesting a letter from me, you are giving me permission to freely discuss my interactions with you here at Williams, including items from your academic record, like grades, and in cases where I have knowledge of such things, outcomes of disciplinary hearings.