Letters of Recommendation Cannot be Taken for Granted

By Dr. G. Jay Christensen

Students Need Common Sense

When a student in the past asked for a recommendation letter, it was usually at an inopportune time. I was up to my neck in paperwork and meetings. However, something I read recently in The Chronicle of Higher Education convinced me to approach the task differently. The author in this article suggested we treat all recommendation letter requests as privileges. It is an honor to be asked to write a letter of recommendation for a colleague, friend, or a fellow student.

In thinking about the importance of recommendation letters I am reminded of a recent episode on Curb Your Enthusiasm, the famous half-hour comedy show on HBO Cable. Larry David, creator of the show, was casually eating a meal at a fine restaurant when a friend of his asked for a recommendation for an art museum. David took an abrupt look at his friend and inquired what he should say about the man’s artistic ability. That got me thinking about what I recommend to my students when they want to pursue their professors for recommendations.

Here’s the advice I offer them:

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