Will I write a letter of recommendation for you?

Yes. However, please read the following and choose the set of instructions that apply to you:

First, you need to keep in mind that everyone applying to graduate school is at the top of the distribution. It's not a numbers game, it's a question of fit. You need to make yourself stand out by crafting a narrative that describes you, your skills and abilities, and your goals. Instead of asking why you need a graduate program to accept you, ask why a graduate program needs someone like you. Answer that question for them. The most important step there is choosing wisely. Choose programs that you qualify for and where you will fit in. If your reach never exceeds your grasp, reach farther. But, be reasonable.

Letters are an important part of your personal narrative. Choose people to write letters for you who will help to complete the picture of who you are and what you can do. Be strategic. If, after due reflection, you feel that I can be one of the people who writes for you, go on to the next step.

Two more things to consider:

1. Steve Jobs said this better than anyone I've ever heard say it. Read this, and take a lot of time to reflect on it as you plan for graduate school or your next step:

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

"Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

2. This article has some helpful advice on what not to do in your application. There are also a lot of sources with advice on what to do. Track those down, read them, apply what you learn.

Appleby, D. C., & Appleby, K. M. (2006). Kisses of death in the graduate school application process. Teaching of Psychology, 33, 19-24. doi:10.1207/s15328023top3301_5

How to ask me for a letter:

1. I know you well, we've done research together, we've discussed your career goals and personal statement, etc.


What are you doing here? Just ask me, these letters are easy.

2. You had me for research methods and you completed an independent project.

I can write you a letter. We have been through an experience together that allows me to fill in blanks like "works well with others," "is responsible," "can work with little supervision." I would describe this letter as your "second" letter. I know more about you in more contexts than your average professor who just had you for one class. But, I'm not that person you worked with on research or an internship for an entire semester.

I need to know from you:
If there are special circumstances (e.g., you presented at MTPA), list those for me. If we had more than just research methods together, list the rest of the classes and the semesters.

Email the information, we can meet if you'd like.

3. You had me in a class, you did well, and you think I could write a positive letter.

I can write you a letter. I will have your grades and any papers or work submitted electronically. The letter will be positive. However, in the ranking of letters, it will be relatively weak. We had one class a while back, so that will limit what I can say. If you are being strategic and you have that killer letter from someone who knows you well and has worked with you outside of a class context (e.g., research, internship), mine will be a strong compelement to back up the "she is academically well prepared" leg of your table.

That leaves me with two questions:

a. Do you have that killer letter, or, what are you doing to get it?

b. Is what you need from me consistent with what I can say (further proof that you are acdemically well qualified)? If so, I could use a little more information:
Remind me of how I know you. List every class that we had together and the semester of each class.

Email the information, we can meet if you'd like.