In last decade I taught more than 3000 students and wrote more than 200 reference letters (approximately 20 letters per year). It is becoming harder to keep track of all student names and papers to write a relevant reference letter. Starting from March 2018 I have decided to implement a Reference Letter Request Policy.
I can write a reference letter to my students who have taken at least 9 credit hours of coursework with me (three one-semester courses). Teaching three courses provides me with an opportunity to complete a solid reference letter and ensure I have enough material to recommend the student for MSW or PhD studies or employment in the field.
For students who only have taken one or two courses with me, I encourage to engage in research or service activities that I can supervise so I will be able to provide a reference letter based on multiple activities you have performed under my supervision (not only graded papers from one or two courses).
Please allow at least 60 days for me to complete a reference request. I will not consider any last minute requests as it takes at least 4-5 hours of work to review all graded papers and complete a reference letter for each student request unless I regularly maintain a connection with the student and can write a reference letter based on the projects we worked together (teaching assistants, research assistants).
If you have taken 3 or more classes with me or participated in extensive service, research, grading and/or other supervised activities please answer the following questions and submit them via e-mail email@example.com with all supporting documents at least 60 days before academic reference is due (for employment-related references provide at least one week notice that you will use my name as a reference).
1. Please state how you know me (e.g. how many courses you took with me, when, where or what projects we worked together etc).
2. Please provide some examples of skills you have enhanced when mastering course learning objectives or working on teaching/research/service project (e.g. public speaking skills, academic writing skills, critical thinking skills etc)
3. Please provide copies of your graded work and state how each assignment helped you in your learning. (e.g. copy of the major research paper, group project etc)
4. Please name qualities that you possess and was able to demonstrate in the course that is helpful in your selected field of study. (e.g. being independent learner, communicative, punctual etc.)
5. Please suggest how the course helped you to choose your selected program of studies/area of employment (e.g. the same field of studies, focused on relevant skills for your future practice etc)
6. Please share any information you think will help me to write you a reference letter based on our interaction in the course. (e.g. volunteer experience during the course, helping other students in the course etc).
Once I complete writing the reference letter I usually provide students with the copy of the reference letter for their records and/or future requests. If I agreed to write the letter, I will provide a strong reference based on the knowledge and skills you have demonstrated in class and/or in other forms of professional relationship.
Many times students did not share with me about the outcome of their application which is a personal choice but I wish at least when the outcome is positive to be informed instead of seeing “news” on Facebook or finding out that the student was accepted in the program 1-2 years after the reference letter was written. It is a good practice to write a follow-up e-mail to inform me about the outcome of the application process whether successful or not.