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Letters Of Recommendation

If you would like me to write you a letter of recommendation, you've come to the right place.    Here is a checklist for what you should do when you request a letter of recommendation:
  1. Make sure I know you well enough to write a strong letter.
    Simply getting an A, or even an A+, in my class is not sufficient.  I have hundreds of students each year who get As in my classes, and simply talking about your strong performance in one or two classes will not make you stand out.  In order for me to write a letter for you, you must have done at least one (but preferably more) of the following:
    • Worked with me as a tutor or TA
    • Done at least one star point assignment
    • Worked with me on a research/independent study project
    • Been part of ERSP
    • Come in to talk to me during office hours enough so that I know you by name
    • Some other activity equivalent to those listed above
  2. Give me enough time
    Make sure the deadline is at least a month in the future if I have never written you a letter before.  If I have previously written you a letter, a week or so lead time will do.  I get dozens of requests for letters of recommendation, and I cannot accommodate all of them, so asking early ensures that you will get in the queue before it fills up.  You must send me ALL of the information listed on this page at least a month in advance.
  3. Tell me what you need, when you need it, and where it needs to be sent.
    Make a list of all of the programs you need a letter for and place this information in an editable Google doc which you share with me (cjalvarado@eng.ucsd.edu).  It must be editable so that I can mark off the programs as I submit the letters.  It's fine if this document is shared with all your letter writers.  Include the following information for each program:
    1. When the letter is due
    2. A link to information about the program and/or a prompt about what the letter should address
    3. How I should submit the letter (e.g., will I get an email request?  do I give the letter to you in a signed envelope?)  Note that I DO NOT provide students with letters via email.
  4. Help me remember what to put in the letter
    If I've agreed to write you a letter, then I obviously know something about you.   However, even if I know you extremely well, I work with literally thousands of students every year, and I've likely forgotten important details about you (e.g., which classes you took with me in which terms, when you started tutoring with me, etc).  So please send me and email with short bits of information that will remind me what to write about in my letter.  These should be things like:
    • Which classes you took with me, in which quarters
    • Highlights of your performance in these classes (e.g., perfect score on the final exam, a particular homework assignment that you went beyond the requirements (describe what you did), etc).
    • Which quarters you tutored with me, and for which classes
    • What roles you served as a tutor
    • Which quarters you did research with me
    • What you accomplished in these research projects
    • Any extra-curricular activities that it would make sense for me to write about (e.g. things related to how I know you through class)
    These should not be things like:
    • How much you really liked a particular assignment (this is irrelevant to the letter--I need concrete evidence that shows your positive qualities)
    • How much you really want this job/position/program that you are applying for
    • Completely separate activities that don't relate to my relationship with you.  I will not write about things I have not directly interacted with you on.
  5. Remind me when the letter is coming due
    2-3 days before the deadline, please send me an email with a reminder that the deadline is approaching. 
  6. Uphold your part of the application (or let me know I don't need to write the letter anymore)
    If you ask me to write a letter, I expect that you will complete your part of the application.  Writing a good letter is time consuming.  I am happy to do it, but nothing drives me crazier than when I have put in the work to support your application and then you fail to complete your side of things.  So if you are not going to be able to meet the deadline for your piece of the materials, please let me know so that I don't waste my time.  
You should have all of this information ready to go before the deadline for making the request.  This will make the process smooth and easy.