Ask @UConnFYW: Letters of Recommendation

During the spring semester, FYW began a new social media initiative called Ask @UConnFYW to create a space for informal dialogue and information exchange across our community. Our first post solicited questions and comments about letters of recommendation. 

Now, check out responses to those questions from Ellen Carillo, Professor of English and Writing Coordinator at the Waterbury Campus. And don’t forget to follow @UConnFYW on Instagram for more content!  

Our followers asked:  

Should I cap the total number of recommendations I agree to each semester? 

We wouldn’t suggest you cap the total number of recommendations you agree to each semester. One semester you may have a heavier teaching load or more work, in general, and other semesters may be lighter. While it’s important to set boundaries and take stock of the labor you are engaging in each semester and you should not commit to writing letters that traverse those boundaries, a blanket policy about the number of recommendations you write each semester isn’t necessarily beneficial. 

What sorts of support materials are people asking for from students these days?  

In order to support the writing of a recommendation, we usually ask a student for a resume or c.v., as well as any materials they are submitting as part of the application process, such as a personal statement. Keep in mind that a student may not have all of these materials available when they ask for the recommendation. You can, however, ask them to provide these materials once they are ready. These materials supply the details necessary to write a strong letter of recommendation and may include information about the students’ interests, accomplishments, and goals that you were unaware of.  

Perhaps the most important thing you can ask a student for is what they hope to gain by having you as a recommender. For example, one of our students, who was applying to medical school, wanted an English professor to speak to their reading, writing, and communication skills. Understanding why you have been asked to write on this student’s behalf can be a huge help in focusing the letter.