Seeking a Recommendation from Dr. Palen?
I like writing letters for students, and feel that it's an important part of my function as a professor, to let graduate schools and employment prospects know how fabulous you are. But you can save a lot of time and effort on both our parts by doing the following:
- Come talk to me in my office, to find out if I feel I can be a good reference for you. There are non-obvious reasons why I might not be a good reference: I might not know you very well; I might not be able to speak to the things committees will want to know about.
- Give me sufficient notice. I will need at least two weeks, and preferably more than that.
- Summarize the deadlines and addresses. Be sure to indicate which program you are applying to at each institution. (For example, you might be applying to a mix of astronomy and physics programs---it's less than convincing if I have to fudge the letter say 'I heartily recommend Bob to your program.') Also tell me if there are special instructions (signed on the back of the envelope is the usual one).
- Include a pre-addressed letter for each institution and the required recommendation form (with your part filled out).
- It is helpful if you can give me a transcript. An unofficial copy is fine. This will help me remember the terms you were in my class. Sometimes I confuse one year with another.
- A brief paragraph explaining why you want to go to graduate school, or why you are interested in a particular job may help me to craft the letter so that I address specific concerns they may have.