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Letters of Recommendation

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Soka University Japan - Transcend Art and Peace
Created: April 14, 2003
Latest Update: July13, 2003

E-Mail Icon jeannecurran@habermas.org
takata@uwp.edu

Site Teaching Modules Sample Request for a Letter of Recommendation

By Jennifer Glass, CSUDH

On Tuesday, April 1, 2003, Jennifer Glass wrote to confirm
her oral request for a letter of recommentdation:
Subject: Letter of Recommendation

Jeanne,

I am applying for admission to the XYZ Graduate Program, Sociology Option. In my letters of recommendation, three issues need to be addressed: (After the questions, in parentheses, I put some suggestions of different issues I plan to include in my essay when I answer these same questions.)

  1. What in the applicant's background indicates this subject matter is appropriate for the applicant?

    (Honor student, BA in Sociology, learned sociological concepts that could apply to this area : ex. illocutionary discourse, etc.)

  2. Why applicant desires this degree program?

    (Get good job, further education,etc.)

  3. What does applicant plan to do with this degree once obtained?

    (I am currently employed by Charlie's Hoopla, and I hope to further advance my career in this company.)

    If you have any questions, let me know. Thank you very much for helping me with this! I greatly appreciate it!!
    Jennifer Glass

On Monday, April 14, 2003, jeanne wrote the following, with a couple of very polite reminders in the interim:

April 14, 2003

XYZ Graduate Program,
Sociology Option
Admissions Committee:

This letter is in support of the application for admission of Ms. Looky Loo. She has supplied me with a list of questions of interest to you, so I will follow that guide:

  1. What in the applicant's background indicates this subject matter is appropriate for the applicant?

    Looky Loo is an honor student in Sociology and would be able to apply much of that learning to your program. When we discussed her plans, she shared with me ideas of concepts we had worked on that should be of help to her in negotiation and conflict management. For example, we study the underlying causes of conflict, based on Maria Pia Lara's understanding of "illocutionary discourse" as discourse focused on hearing the Other in good faith without necessarily agreeing with the Other. Looky Loo saw how such a background of theory might later prove useful in resolving disputes.

  2. Why applicant desires this degree program?

    Looky Loo is curious, industrious, and makes every effort to help and show kindness to those around her. This makes her an ideal candidate for one of the helping professions. At the same time her quickness of mind, attention to detail, and willingness to follow through on specific details suggest that she would do very well at sociology program. She participates readily in both classroom and informal settings, and has developed solid communication skills.

  3. What does applicant plan to do with this degree once obtained?

    Looky Loo is just setting out on a serious career path, so it is difficult to state with any certainty where her plans will lead her. But at the moment she works for Charlie's Hoopla, and will have numerous opportunities to advance there with both her graduate work and her sociological skills.

Having answered your questions, I should like to add that it has been a great pleasure having Looky Loo as a student. She is courteous, calming, just overall, a nice person. Sometimes my office grows hectic with dozens of students demanding instant attention. It is always a relief to have Looky Loo drop in. Even when she has a request like this, she gives it to me with adequate time and follows up gently and graciously. I'm sure she'll be a welcome addition to your program.

Sincerely,

Jeanne Curran, Ph.D., Esq.
Professor of Sociology

Notice how Jennifer's detailed suggestions helped me figure out what to write. I also like that she made those suggestions in the guise of excerpts she planned to include in her essay. Good strategy. Then I can't complain that she told me what to write. Though, if it's me, I'll be glad to be told what to write, thank you. Jennifer's request provides an excellent model for your requests. I usually just get a crappy resume. Come on, kids. That's no help. That can get you a dog letter.

* * * * *

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the major disadvantage of not explaining in writing to me what particular experiences you had in my course that you would like me to base your letter of recommendation on?

    Consider that Suan and I average over a 100 students a semester. If you don't pull your own memories out of your own apperceptive mass, you're depending on us to remember all the neat things that happened with you. And you're one of a hundred or so students.

  2. What's wrong with saying "These are things I would like you to say."?

    Consider that many teachers would consider that "pushy" and would not want to be told what you want them to say.

  3. How did Jennifer creatively get around telling the teacher what to write?

    Consider that she told jeanne what she was going to write in her personal statement, and asked for feedback on that.

  4. Might you get a really wonderful letter of recommendation without going to all this trouble?

    Yes. But then you're relying on luck.

  5. Isn't there something basically dishonest about this approach?

    No. There's something very cogent about the structural ability to cope with overcrowding in schools with overworked teachers.



Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, April 2003.
"Fair use" encouraged.