About Writing References for Students

From time to time, students, colleagues, and friends ask me to write them references for one thing or another. In all cases, I find it flattering to be asked, even if I cannot necessarily provide a helpful reference for the person asking (and there have been times I have not felt I could be of service to those who have asked me for recommendation); I consider the request to be a validation of my insight and judgment, and I flatter myself in both regards. A question about my willingness to do so came up in a recent class, and it occurred to me that I had not updated my reference policy towards my students since its appearance some time ago on my older teaching website. Making such an update seems to be in order; a revised statement of my policy on such matters regarding my students appears below. (I treat my colleagues and friends differently, as should be expected.) It still borrows from the stated policies of my long-time adviser, Prof. Chris Healy at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.


I am happy to write recommendations for those students who have done well in my classes, both in terms of their academic performance and of their professionalism. This generally means that students need to have earned a solid B or better (85+) , or an HPR for those students in college-preparatory classes at Technical Career Institutes who may still ask me for letters, in courses taken with me and to have been pleasantly memorable presences in the classroom and during office hours for me to be willing to write recommendations for them.

To write the recommendation, I will need to know whom I will write the recommendation to, as well as what medium the recommendation needs to take (an online form, a printed letter, an Interfolio letter, or some other format). Further, I will need a copy of relevant materials, such as writing samples that the recommendation will accompany; a CV/resume from the requester and a sample of the work done thereby will also be appreciated.

Give me some time to work on the piece. A couple of weeks before I need to send off the recommendation (allowing time for mailing, if that is how it needs to go) will be enough; a couple of days will not likely be. The request for the recommendation should itself be a point in favor of the recommendation, and consideration for the writer conduces to that end.

In asking me to write a letter of recommendation, students are giving me permission to discuss specifics of their performance in my class/es with those to whom I am writing the recommendation. I can hardly do well at the task without providing details, after all.

There may be more to come in this regard; policies need to be ready to change to suit new circumstances that arise.

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