Writing reference letters for undergraduate students who have taken my classes and for graduate advisees is an important part of my job. Below are some guidelines that, if followed, will help make the letter-writing process mutually productive.
Will you write me a letter?
The background and qualifications I require to write a letter vary by circumstance. I judge each request individually, but below are some guidelines that can help you determine whether I am the right person to contact for a letter. Letters for student exchange programs are straightforward. I will write one of these for most students who have taken classes with me and done solid work (usually a ‘B’ or better). The stronger your performance in class, the stronger the letter. If you are applying for law school, professional school, graduate school, or major scholarships I should be familiar with you and your work (you have been active in class discussions and/or made regular visits during office hours – ideally both). Performance in my classes should generally have been excellent (“A”-level). It is best if you approach me about a letter while still a student (even if you are planning to take a year off). It is good practice to meet with Profs. you might request letters from to get their perspective on your post-graduation plans.
I am also able to write letters for internships and jobs. A minimum grade of ‘B’ in courses you’ve taken with me is generally required for these kinds of letters.
How much time do you need?
For programs that require you to submit a personal statement or program of work I require time to review your materials. With this in mind, you should plan to have all of the relevant materials in my hands a minimum of two weeks before the letter is due. The earlier the better. Fall is a very busy time for letters. If this is when you will be making your request then plenty of lead-time is optimal.
Sometimes opportunities arise at the last minute. The more lead-time the better, but sometimes this is not always possible. I may not be able to meet a last-minute request, but it never hurts to ask.
What materials are required?
If I have agreed to write you a letter, please send along the following materials in one email:
- A list of program(s) to which you’re applying, noting deadlines, with the earliest deadline listed first and in bold type.
- A draft of your statement of purpose, proposal, or cover letter for the application(s)
- Copies of major papers you’ve written for my class
- Copies of your unofficial UVic transcripts.
- A short annotated resume of your extracurricular activities, achievements, and work history; for graduate students, an updated CV.
- Anything else you think is relevant.
It’s important that all the materials arrive together. If any of the forms I need to submit with your letter require me to fill out contact information, please fill out my portion in advance with this data:
Name: James Rowe
Position: Associate Professor
Department: Environmental Studies
University: University of Victoria
Address: Turpin Building B243 3800 Finnerty Road (Ring Road)
Victoria, BC V8P 5C2
Phone: 250- 250-853-3574 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lastly, reminder emails as the deadline approaches are most welcome!
*This FAQ borrows from a similar document used by Dean Mathiowetz at UC Santa Cruz