One of the things that makes me happy about being a teacher is helping people move on to the next phase of their lives by providing recommendations for employment or school, including recommendations for scholarships and awards. However, because I most like writing good recommendations, I have a couple of conditions, and Federal law requires a third condition.
I can write a better reference if you send me a current copy of your resume and tell me a little bit about why you're particularly qualified for the job, educational program, or award you're applying for. I don't require those things for a recommendation, but it is probably worth your trouble to send them along. (You have to get this stuff together for your application anyway; you may as well get the maximum mileage out of it!)
If you have items you'd like me to mention in the recommendation, tell me what they are; email is fine. (However, I don't promise to mention all of them; I have to have some personal knowledge of them to write about them.)
If you're applying to a school, a copy of your application essay will help me write a better recommendation.
If you are applying to graduate school or for a scholarship or award, a FERPA release is probably not necessary. Generally, all I need is their reference form, which will often be electronic. Their form must allow you to indicate whether you do or do not waive your right to access to my recommendation. (If I find a problem with a school's form, I'll let you know.)
Most employers don't know about FERPA and don't provide a reference form anyway. So, here is a FERPA release form you can fill in on line. However, when you have filled it in, you have to print it and sign it. You can then drop it by, mail it to me or scan it and send by email.
If you think you might want me to serve as a reference for more than one kind of application, or for more than one potential employer or potential educational institution, cover all the possibilities in the first form you send me. That way, you won't need a new form every time.
If you're applying for a security clearance, want me to talk to a parent about your progress, or otherwise have a request that's not employment, educational application, or award, I still need that release. Fill in the "other" blanks, print it, and send it along.
|Hand deliver:||Bring your release to J-330 during business hours with my name on it.
|Send by email:||Bob dot Brown at Kennesaw dot edu
|Send by mail:||Bob Brown, Ph.D.
Mail Stop 9036
Kennesaw State University Marietta Campus
1100 South Marietta Parkway
Marietta, Georgia 30060
Although I've retired, I can still write recommendations. My email still works, and I'll get material sent to me at the department office.
Whether you are using your prospective school's reference form or the FERPA release from the link above, you will be asked to check whether you do or do not waive your right of access to references I may write under your release. If you do waive your right of access, then I (and they) do not have to tell you what I have written. I think that both prospective schools and prospective employers will give more weight to a reference if they believe it is confidential, and you should take that into consideration when you make your choice. I reserve the right to decline to complete reference forms where you have not waived your right to access, even if I have previously told you I'd be a reference, because the institution receiving the recommendation will not take it seriously, so it's a waste of my time!
Besides that, if you don't trust a professor to write a good recommendation, you've asked the wrong professor.
Every now and then a faculty colleague asks about writing letters of recommendation. This is what I tell them.
Copyright © by Bob Brown. Some rights reserved.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Originally published: 2012-10-06