Why, yes! I would be more than happy to work with you on a letter of recommendation, since you were one of the best students I’ve had. However, since hundreds of you graduate each year, and thousands of you want scholarships (jobs, internships, grad school recommendations, recommendation required to take the P.E. exam, …), it’s just physically impossible for me to craft that many letters. Furthermore, since you know what you would like the potential employer or graduate school or scholarship committee to know about you far better than I ever could, it only makes sense that you write it, not me. Were you a Boy Scout? A Girl Scout? An Eagle Scout? Did you earn 90% of your college expenses digging ditches and working two jobs? Did you co-op? Did you work your tail off for me on my research project and do fantastic work? Did you have a 4.0 GPR in your major for the last 3 semesters? Have you been in the Air Force for the past 4 years and are now realizing that a graduate degree will be of tremendous value? Wow! I didn’t know that, and would never have thought to mention it. The only thing I remember was pitching chalk at you to try and keep you awake in class. But I digress.
So here is what I need from you: email me a perfect letter of recommendation that you wish I would write for you, listing every nifty reason why they should hire you, why the graduate school should accept you, why you should get the scholarship, whatever. I must also have your student UIN number so I can look up your records.
You are welcome to assume that you really were the best student I ever had because even if you weren’t, you must be pretty danged good to have graduated from A&M, or to expect a scholarship, or to even have been invited here. I will remove the obvious lies, and those things that are possibly true but which I’m not sure I believe, and those things which I believe but don’t think the employer will believe, then correct the spelling and grammar (maybe – and then again perhaps I will just leave the “I thouht he was really good studnt” in there. Then they will assume that I am a careless oaf, and that I probably trained you to be one too. No skin off my nose – I already have a job.) See true example here.
NOTE: I may mention this later, several times, but you MUST use the following as your Subject Line, and NOTHING ELSE:
Recommendation Request – your last name, your first name.
Just copy and paste it and substitute your name. The reason is that I currently have 1737 unread emails and the only way I have any chance of seeing that yours to be considered is by sorting on the Subject line. If you instead type in “As we discussed, my request to be recommended is attached” it will end up 4 feet above everyone else’s. As soon as I get it, I will return a copy to you so you will know I got it.
Think I’m kidding? Here’s a screen shot from today:
Continuing: Note that sending me your resume and hoping that I will have the time to craft a letter of recommendation from it is not an option, unless you are happy with me copying and pasting your resume, as is, into the space that says “Please put your letter of recommendation here.”
Email this to me at Lowery@tamu.edu. I will then remember who you are, dig out your grades and other records, reflect on how I agree that you really were a great student, put the modified version on a CE Department letterhead and submit it. If you send me a two sentence blurb, then that’s what they’ll get – a two sentence summary of your life. If you send me a list of ten items, then I’ll just send them that list. If you take great care and construct a professionally written, well thought out letter, then that’s what they get. I’ll even pay for the stamp.
I sometimes get letters saying “Chee Lowery, I can’t say all those wonderful things about myself. That would be too embarrassing.” Well, life is tough buddy. If you don’t think you’re wonderful, then don’t expect me to make up stuff to say about you. Perhaps you can get your mother to write it for you.
Now if you think that this is just too much trouble, and that I am a lazy bum because I won’t do all the work for you – you’re right. I am a lazy bum. I haven’t worked in years, and certainly don’t intend to start now. Go get some other poor sucker to recommend you. Or if you really are just too lazy to do your own work, I will be happy to send them my standard letter of recommendation. One size fits all.
Note that I don’t mind just “checking the boxes.” If the form you need only asks me to rate my opinion of your abilities on a scale of 1 to 10, I am happy to do that with little assistance. But I still need the information listed below in case they actually call me and ask about you. Just have them send me the form. It’s only requests to write finely crafted, life-altering letters with which I must have your input. Even in this case it will be to your advantage to carefully read each question below and remind me what you have done to deserve high marks in that area. Note also that they almost always ask me the following
- what is your student ID
- when did I first meet you
- for how long have I known you
- in what capacity did I know you (as your professor, were you my teaching assistant, etc.)
- was I your advisor, either formally or informally
- what classes I taught you
- what grades you made in my classes
- what extenuating circumstances caused you to make less than an A in my classes
- what was your overall and in-major GPR
- what extenuating circumstances caused you to make less than a 3.90 in your major classes
- what did you do while here that made you stand out
- what have you done since graduation, if you have graduated
- who have your worked for, co-op, internships, summers, unpaid research with professors, …
- what graduate school did you attend after graduating
- what advanced degrees have you gathered since graduation
- and anything else you would like me to mention.
So if you expect me to say other than “danged if I know”, I will expect you to give me that information. Further, they usually ask what makes you stand out from other students, or what single trait do I think most qualifies you for the position. They also ask if you are good at teaming, can you work without constant supervision, etc. Your answers and comments on any of these things must be listed in your letter to me if you want them discussed in my letter to them. You should probably also send me a copy of your resume.
READ THS: For examples of the questions I am constantly asked to answer see Specific student traits and More generic questions. If you give me nothing upon which to base responses, I simply have no choice but to leave that section blank. Now you may indeed have done nothing to list in these areas, but I just don’t want to leave them blank and then find out you worked for Dr. Keating in the Hi-Bay lab for 2 years as a volunteer and found a way to load a specimen that was new and novel, and not list it under “examples of how the student handles challenging situations”, or that you formed study groups for your friends and taught them what lateral buckling was all about and not list it under “Potential for teaching”.
I wish you luck in getting this new job, scholarship, acceptance to graduate school, or whatever, and await your reply. I will tell you now that you were a great student. If you weren’t among the top students on the face of the earth you would never have been invited to Texas A&M, nor would you have survived to make it to my class, much less have graduated. I also appreciate that you contacted me from all of your other professors to help you with this important step in your career.
P.S. Please click here to see what you actually get from me if you don’t respond to the above.