Many students find that they need letters of recommendation when they apply for a career position or graduate school. You should keep this in mind as you progress through your academic career and choose campus related activities. Simply taking a course with a faculty member does not give the faculty member much to write about as they have limited knowledge of your capabilities and approach.
There are many opportunities to participate in meaning campus and community activities, such as outreach, research labs, honor societies, clubs, college sports, etc. Your participation in these activities will help you to develop skills that will be useful in your careers and gain experiences with your fellow students and campus faculty. A faculty member who gets to know you through your participation in these activities, or is aware of your participation in these activities, is able to write a more complex and complete letter of recommendation.
If you do decide to request a letter, remember that it is a request and faculty can choose to provide or not provide a letter. Also, faculty members have different requirements related to the request so ask what they are. Here are some items that many faculty wish you to provide along with your request:
- A brief bio including information that will help them remember you. (Many faculty members prefer that you visit them at office hours to discuss a possible recommendation.) Your GPA, resume (the Career Center can help with this), and a draft statement of purpose (educational and career objects) should be included. Here is a helpful site with information about writing an effective statement of purpose: https://career.berkeley.edu/Grad/GradStatement.stm
- Information about the courses that you took from them. This could include the name of the course, the topic of your paper, the semester/term of the course, where you presented your project, etc.
- Information about your campus related activities that you experienced with them and campus/career related activities you participated in that they would be aware of. This could include when you assisted with outreach or research activities, conferences you attended, and your participation in the HD Club, KON honor society, for example.
- Information about the program you are applying to or the position you seek.
- Application forms with your name, signature, application due date, required envelopes, submission instructions, etc. Most forms have a section about waiving your rights to see the letter we provide. This is supposed to allow the faculty member the opportunity to speak truthfully about you. It is wise to ask your potential recommenders if they are able to write you a favorable and strong letter of recommendation. Ask directly and they will be honest with you and tell you if they prefer you use someone else.
- Keep track of the deadlines and check in with the faculty member as the deadline approaches. Reminders are good!