Letters of Recommendation

Please read the following guidelines before asking me for a letter of recommendation for graduate school or employment. The guidelines are designed to make the process easier for both of us and help me write the best letter possible for you.


  • Consider whether I am the most appropriate choice for writing a letter that matches your expectations and objectives. I can write stronger letters of recommendation for students who have performed well and participated actively in my classes. If you took more than one class with me or conducted an independent study or honors thesis with me, I can make more substantive comments. These are not necessary requirements, but something to think about. Also, if you are applying for graduate school, it is often best to have letter writers from that same field. Because of my expertise in sociology and demography, I know best how to convey your qualifications to those types of programs.
  • Please give me at least four weeks’ notice for any letter of recommendation. Given the large number of letters I am asked to write, it helps me to know in advance when letter deadlines are coming up. A rushed letter does neither of us any good.
  • Give me some specific information about what is needed for the letter. Let me know the kind of program you are applying to (e.g., graduate school, a summer research program, a scholarship or fellowship). In addition to the deadline, let me know if there are any special instructions for the letter writers or anything in particular that letter writers are asked to comment on.

Helpful Items to Provide to Me:
If you would like me to write you a letter of recommendation, please send me as much of the following information as possible:

  • Deadline and instructions for submission. For electronic applications, be sure to fill out all the parts of the online application. Information about my address, title, etc., can be found on my Contact Also, if it is an option, I recommend always waiving your right to read any letter of recommendation written about you. This will make readers of the letter more confident that the letter writer felt free to write honestly.
  • Resume or CV. Include your GPA, relevant classes and work experience, honors and academic awards, publications, and service activities.
  • Personal Statement. If you are asked to submit this type of statement for the application, please send me your latest draft. If not, please write an informal statement that describes your long-term career goals and how participation in this program or job will contribute to you attaining them. Also, describe key skills or research/teaching experience you have that make you especially qualified for a program or job.
  • All additional items that you plan to submit with your application. This includes copies of essays, summaries, or proposals. Good drafts are usually sufficient.
  • Information about the program. Almost any program to which you apply will have a description of the goals of their program and what criteria are used for selection. Please send me a copy or summary of this description.
  • Any other information that you think is relevant and might help me write a letter. I would especially welcome summaries of your performance in my class/es or our collaborations and aspects of those that reflect your own strengths and potential. Do not be afraid to toot your own horn. This will help me remember and improve the personal nature and depth of your letter.

Please feel free to reach me for further guidance or clarification. If you haven’t heard from me a few days before the deadline, a friendly email reminder or two are welcome.