Letters of Recommendation
Each year faculty and professional staff are asked
to prepare letters of reference for students and graduates of the University.
Students sometimes become regular visitors as they make individual requests for
each graduate school or employer they may be considering.
Specific guidelines on reference writing found in
Section III-Y-1 of the Faculty Handbook cover information appropriate for
inclusion in such letters. University guidelines stress that all information included
in the letter of recommendat ion must be supported by demonstrated evidence that
is within the purview of the reference writer. Personal data, sexist, or racist
remarks of any kind clearly overstep the bounds of appropriate reference-writing.
Some basic points to keep in mind when writing references:
- The writer must determine if enough information
exists about the student to prepare a letter of reference. Broad letters with
little substance may do more harm than good when read by employers.
- The reference writer should discuss with the student
the purpose of the reference and be cognizant of the student's goals. References
that include information relating to professional objectives of the student carry
the most weight with reference readers.
- Information should be included that places the student
in comparison with other students you may have taught.
- If you feel strongly about the candidacy of a student,
offer to provide additional information by phone so that the reference reader
may feel comfortable in initiating further contact.
- You may be asked to write a new, updated letter
of reference for a student with whom you have had an ongoing relationship. When
your new letter is added to a student's file, the old letter will remain until
the student requests that it be removed.
Faculty and staff are under no obligation to write
letters of reference for students. Any letter that is written should, in fact,
be supportive of the student. If this is not the case, it should be stated at
the time of the request so that the student can determine whether a letter may
still be needed even if information which might not be entirely positive is included.
Please review the sample reference letter that follows:
Sample Faculty Reference Letter
Dear [Name of Employer]:
This reference letter is provided at the written
request of [name of student], who has asked me to serve as a reference on [his/her]
behalf. It is my understanding that [name of student] is being considered by your
organization for the position of [job title]. Please be advised that the information
contained in this letter is confidential and should be treated as such. The information
should not be disclosed to [name of student, if student has waived access] or
anyone in your organization who would not be involved in the hiring decision regarding
this individual. Additionally, the information should not be disclosed to anyone
outside of your organization without the consent of the student.
I have known [name of student] for the past [number
of months, semesters, years] as [he/she] has taken the following courses which
I teach: [list courses, give brief description of content of course]. As [his/her]
professor, I have had an opportunity to observe the student's participation and
interaction in class and to evaluate the student's knowledge of the subject matter.
I would rate the student's overall performance in these subjects as average. This
is evidenced by [his/her] grades - - [state the grades].
[One or two specific examples of the student's performance
may be appropriate.] As part of [his/her] grade in [name of course], the student
was required to prepare a paper. The paper was designed to measure the student's
ability to research, to analyze the results of the research, and to write. [Discuss
how the paper submitted by the student indicated to you the student's skills in
these areas.] Based upon this, I rate the student's skills competent but not excelling.
The one area in which the student performed above
average was in oral communications. [Give specific example to support this.]
I believe the student would perform competently
with your organization and has potential if challenged.
If you would like to discuss this further, please
feel free to contact me.
SOURCE: CPC Legal Monograph: A New Dilemma: Reference
Letters and Checks