If you’re a student thinking about graduate school, though, consider this post a friendly reminder: Don’t be J. Randomstudent. You don’t need to run an A+ average in every class– God knows, I didn’t when I was a student– but you do need to do something to stand out. These letters ask faculty to comment on the academic ability, research potential, and personal qualities of the candidates, so it’s imperative that you have faculty members who can comment on those things (primarily the first two).
You don’t have to suck up to every faculty member you meet, but make sure that there are at least a few professors who know you well. A colleague in the social sciences said once that he tells students to make sure that they get to know at least one of their professors each term, which will give them 10-12 potential recommenders by the time senior year rolls around.
What do you need to do to get good letters? Make sure that you give your best effort in classes in your major. Participate in class discussions. Go to office hours and ask questions if you have them. Take advantage of any undergraduate research opportunities that come your way, and if you get taken on to a research project, treat it as a real job, not some summer lark: show up on time, do your work to the best of your ability, and try to show a little initiative.
A nice piece!
Tags: recommendation letters