Who do you ask? What information do they need? How many can they do?
Faculty are very willing to write letters of recommendation and consider the letters part of their involvement in students and their education. Listed below are some suggestions collected at a faculty meeting which, if followed, will make the process easier and more efficient. Faculty fill out many forms (up to as many as 300 each per year), so your assistance in the process is appreciated.
- Ask the faculty member if they are willing to write a letter of recommendation. Don’t assume they know you well enough or will be able to write a positive letter. Don’t just email or slip a form under a door or in the faculty member’s mailbox without talking with them.
- Complete FERPA Student Waiver (http://www.stolaf.edu/offices/registrar/ferpa-cover-waiver.pdf) and give a copy to faculty member and a copy to Registrar’s Office. Check the 6 month waiver box. The faculty member cannot write a letter of recommendation (with exception of HPC letters) without a completed form. You may decide to not waive access to recommendation and complete a Student Consent form. But realize that a faculty member may not write for you in this case, and that letters of recommendation where access has not been waived are perceived by readers as being weaker than waived letters.
- Provide faculty member with addressed, stamped envelopes for each school.
- If a form is required, type (if possible) any information you can and make sure the waiver form is signed. Read it.
- Provide background information. Ask the faculty member what information they need. Typically, this information will include copy of degree audit and a personal statement. Include any previous experience you have that would be applicable for the program you plan to enter. In some instances a Xerox of your application would be beneficial.
- Indicate the deadline for the recommendation. Give the faculty member at least 2 weeks notice (3 weeks at the end or beginning of a semester).
- If you are requesting multiple letters of recommendation, prepare a cover sheet that lists each application, its due date and where, when, and how recommendation should be submitted. Don’t apply to too many opportunities (10 is considered a lot)!! Think carefully about where you want to go/what you want to do.
- If the application is successful or unsuccessful, let the faculty member know the outcome. Follow through. Faculty need to know the outcome (positive or negative).
- If you decide not to apply for a program, let the faculty member know immediately. Writing unnecessary recommendations is not fun.
- Select faculty members who know you in and, if possible, outside of class. Rank or departmental responsibilities are not as important as knowing you.
- Send a thank you to all the individuals who wrote a reference letter on your behalf.