Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation help graduate programs form a more complete picture of the applicant. An applicant should seek letters from a set of people who know them well enough to provide specific positive examples of the skills and experiences that demonstrate the applicant's preparedness and suitability for graduate study. Letters that cannot give such details are unlikely to help an applicant gain admission to graduate school.
When appropriate, I will write letters of recommendation for students who worked with me as honors students, research assistants, UGIAs, or other meaningful individual involvement. These letters will reflect the nature of the work that we've done together, the student's contributions, and their preparation for the graduate program they're applying to.
Students with only class experience
I suggest that students who have only taken classes with me instead seek letters from someone who can write them a stronger recommendation. For many programs it is critical to solicit letters that can speak strongly about your research and communication skills; e.g., if you are applying to PhD programs and do not have anyone who can write to these skills I recommend seeking out meaningful research experience (i.e., in labs, not just lab classes) before applying.
That said, I understand that letters of recommendation can be a difficult hurdle and will consider writing letters for such students. You should understand the limitations of such a letter: I will only be able to describe the class, your grade, class participation (if applicable), and performance on assignments. Especially if you took a large lecture class with me, or if you performed well but not superlatively so, my letter may not provide much beyond what's already in your transcript.
Initial request for a letter
In the body of the email:
A brief reminder of how we know each other
The types of programs you are applying to (discipline and level, e.g., MA/PhD)
The anticipated first letter of recommendation due date. I may not be able to accommodate requests sent less than a month before the first due date.
Attached to the email:
Your resume or CV
A link to a completed copy of this information form (make sure I have permission to view!) that answers all relevant fields.
This letter of recommendation release form to allow me to discuss your grades
If I do not respond to your request, send it again. A non-response does not mean refusal, it means I missed your email (if I am refusing I will say so!).
Once I agree to write a letter
Please send me a full list of programs with due dates; I prefer you use this template. If you are applying to more than one type of program make that clear in your list. If your list changes, please send me an updated list that makes the changes clear.
Sending letter requests through application portals:
Send requests to my ucsd email address.
Please fill out as many fields for me as you can. See my info here.
It is very unusual for a program to want recommenders to send letters directly to the applicant. If you think a program is asking for me to send a letter directly to you, please forward me those instructions to confirm.