Recommendation Letters Policy

Should you ask me? What should you provide? How much time do I need?

Please read this entire post before contacting me.

Finding and cultivating references was one of the hardest things I had to do as an undergraduate student. I hope this helps make the process easier.

You must contact me to check if I will serve as a reference for you before you submit any specific requests for letters.

As of 2019, I estimate that I have taught over 1500 students. Every term that number will keep growing. Compared to many teachers this is a tiny number. But for my memory it's rather a lot, and it is a challenge to remember every student after they leave my classes, even if they excelled. This is why it is extremely important to be as active as possible during the time(s) you are in my classroom, and to maintain an active correspondence with me once you leave.

The details...

Timeline for requests: If I have never written a letter for you before, I need at least six to eight weeks’ notice. If I have been writing letters for you, then subsequent requests can come as short as one week in advance. Urgent requests on a shorter timeline for the first letter may be considered, but only if my schedule permits.

I will consider recommendation/reference requests from:

  1. Any student who has written an Honours Thesis under my supervision.

  2. Any student who scored a A- or higher on an Independent Study Module paper.

  3. Any student who earned a grade of A- or higher in one or more of my courses.

  4. If you are still completing an HT or ISM, I will consider requests on a case-by-case basis.

Many schools and organizations give you a choice whether to waive access to my letter or not. Always waive access.

If I agree to act as a reference for you, then you should move on to the following steps. It is extremely important that you follow these instructions for EVERY request.

You should send me one email for every application. In the subject line of the email, please include the name of the school/organization/employer and "Due dd/mm/yy". This is essential for me to schedule multiple requests from multiple students.

In the body of the email, please include:

  • Clear instructions for each letter, including:

      • A deadline (may be the same as or different from your application deadline).

      • The official name of the program, fellowship, or job. I need to be precise.

      • The name of the individual to whom the letter should be addressed.

      • An address for the person and/or program (even if I am submitting electronically).

      • The type of submission (by email, online, snail mail).

      • Any specific submission requirements (signed envelope by mail? attachment to a secure web portal? something else?).

  • A very brief description of why the program, fellowship, job, etc. interests you. Why are you a strong candidate?

  • For graduate school, include a list of professors who you are interested in working with.

  • A very brief description of what you did in my classes that I might talk about in a letter. Are there particular assignments, projects, or activities that you would like me to emphasize?

  • A short statement updating me on what you've been doing since graduation. You should include in this why you have chosen to either a) change career paths, or b) go back to school. 

In an attachment, please include:

  • Resume or curriculum vitae.

  • Statement of purpose or essay that you are submitting to the program/school or the job description.

  • All necessary forms. If I have to fill out forms on the web, make sure there are links directly to the proper web form. (Do NOT link to a page where I have to download a form. You should do this yourself and attach it to the document.)

And perhaps most importantly, if you wish to maintain a good relationship with me after all of this... let me know how things work out! If you get accepted to a school, let me know. If you are accepted to study abroad, let me know - and definitely contact me at some point to let me know how it's going (pictures are good too!). If nothing works out for you, it's important for me to know that too. If I never hear from you, but you contact me a year later for more letters, I'll probably say no. So, no matter what happens, keep me updated!