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Scholars Online Science

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Dr. Christe Ann McMenomy

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Letters of Recommendation

Letters of Recommendation

I am applying to X [college, private school, summer program] next year. Will you write a letter of recommendation for me?

Yes, I will be delighted to write a letter for you if you meet two criteria:

  • You have been in one of my classes for an entire semester.
  • Your work is such that I can recommend you as acceptable to the target audience.

If you have not taken at least one semester of work and completed a semester final examination for me, I will not have enough data on which to make an adequate evaluation. Since not only your academic performance, but the reputation of Scholars Online and my integrity as a teacher rest on these evaluations, I need to have spent enough time with you to make a valid assessment of your skills and accomplishments.

If I have any reservations about writing your letter, I will let you know what they are.

What kind of letter can you write?

When you receive your application materials from college, secondary schools, internships, or scholarship programs, you should read through the application very carefully to determine what letters of recommendation are required. Any "counselor" letters should be written by a parent or someone who is familiar with your complete program. Any character assessment letters should be written by someone who has worked with you for several years (a pastor or priest, Scout leader, youth program leader, sports coach, etc.)

I can write the "teacher evalution" letters required to recommend you based on your academic performance. Where possible and appropriate, I may also try to indicate something about your character. If I know anything about the target program, I will try to emphasize those traits which match the kinds of characteristics the school seeks in a student, so it helps if you send me the website (URL) for your program when you request a letter of recommendation.

What information do you need to write my letter?

Once I've agreed to write your letter, you should send the following as soon as possible:

    • A copy of any written instructions for the content of the letter. If a specific form is required, send the form. Be sure to fill out any information about your name, age, address, and so on (this way you know that it is correct!)
    • A stamped envelope addressed to the admissions office or review board that is to receive the letter. [mycroft insists that this is basic politeness, and you should be sure to do this for anyone you approach to write letters for you, for any reason. Remember that the teacher is spending time and effort on the letter; an addressed, stamped envelope is an acknowledgement that you are trying to do your part. Also, if you address the envelope and check it yourself, you are assured that it will go to the correct place.]
    • A note clearly stating any due date for the letter [even if it is on the form!]. If you are sending several forms, put the due date for each one, and any special instructions, on a sticky note and attach it to the proper form.
    • Any information you think would help me emphasize your skills appropriately. For example, if you are particularly interested in a career in astronomy, you should let me know, so that I can mention the telescope you built, and the extra work you did in that class.

Send the materials so they reach me at least three weeks before the due date. This will allow me time to contact you for any additional information I may need, and still mail the documents in time to meet the deadline.

How will I know you have sent the letter?

I will email you right after I post the letter, so that you know when it has been sent.

Can I have a copy of the letter?

No. Confidentiality assures the admissions office that my evaluation is honest and has not been edited or coerced. As I mentioned, if I have any reservations about writing a glowing report of your work, I will contact you first.

Can you send me the letter to forward to the admissions office?

No. For the same reasons of confidentiality, I need to send the letter directly to its recipient unless there are specific written instructions otherwise from the programs. Some internship and scholarship programs request that all information be sent together; in that case, I will include your recommendation in a sealed envelop signed across the flap. But most schools insist on receiving recommendation letters directly from the writer.

Is there a fee for writing a letter of recommendation?

No. Charging a fee for letters of recommendation would create conflict of interest problems, not to mention difficulties for students on a tight budget. If I agree to write the letter, the only thing I need from you are the forms and the deadline, and if possible, the stamp on the envelope to the admissions office.

If, after you get into a college that you like, you want to acknowledge any help we've given you as your teachers, Dr. Bruce and I would be delighted to get a mug from your college for our mug rack.