Students who do well in my courses often come to me asking for a recommendation letter for graduate or postgraduate study. I only write letters for students I know well and I can honestly recommend, so some end up with a glowing recommendation while others leave empty handed. While I was drafting a few letters today, it occurred to me that obtaining a good recommendation letter is a lot easier if you've planned for it well in advance.
Here is a (fairly typical) set of questions asked by a top US university.
Please evaluate the applicant in comparison with others you have known during your professional career.
- Oral communication
- Written communication
- Originality and creativity
- Ability to analyze
- Perseverance towards goals
- Ability to work independently without close supervision
- Ability to get along with people
- Overall potential for graduate study
Read the list carefully and you'll notice that if your professor knows you only as a member of a 180 student class (this is the size of a second year class I was teaching) he's unlikely to be able to offer a sincere opinion on any of the above attributes. Therefore, in order to get a good recommendation letter, you need to ensure that your professor knows you well enough to be able to answer all the questions, preferably by ticking superior or outstanding on the corresponding selection boxes.
Here are some ways to let your professor appreciate your unique talents.
Last modified: Sunday, December 27, 2009 5:53 pm
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