Letters of Recommendation
If you would like me to write a letter of recommendation on your behalf, please read the following very carefully:
I will only consider writing a recommendation for students who achieved an 'A' in my classes. The reason I do this is so I can ensure I can write the best possible, unreserved recommendation and thus maximize your potential success. However, even if you achieved an 'A' in my classes, this does not guarantee that I am prepared to write a recommendation. I reserve the right to refuse to write a letter a recommendation and to do so without explanation.
I require at least three weeks notice to write a letter of recommendation. I want you to succeed. I take writing letters of recommendation very seriously. I want to write the best possible and most appropriate recommendation. To do that, I need to put aside time to assess your work, gather my impressions, potentially meet with you, and then compose and edit your letter. Writing good letters of recommendation is a time-consuming process. The more time I have to write your recommendation, the more able I am to write a strong, compelling recommendation. Regardless, to reiterate, I require at least three weeks notice. I will not write a 'last minute' letter.
The strength of your letter will depend on your course performance (exams, writing, critical thinking. etc.), but it will also be shaped by what I know of you personally. Graduate schools, scholarship committees, and employers want to know that you are smart and mature. I am generally able to assess the first based on your coursework. However, I can only comment on your maturity if I have actually got to know you. Participating in class, attending office hours, and meeting with me to discuss your academic career and professional goals are all good ways to help me get to know you and, hopefully, write a better, more compelling letter.
If you are applying to a master's program, I strongly recommend you schedule a meeting with me or see me during my office hours well in advance of when you intend to start submitting applications..
If you are applying to a doctoral/PhD program, you must schedule a meeting with me well in advance (preferably several months) of when you intend to start submitting applications.
If I agree to write a recommendation, you must provide me with all the relevant information, for example:
1. Information on each institution and position to which you are applying.
2. Information on when each letter is due.
3. Details on how each letter is to be sent.
4. Stamped / addressed envelopes (if multiple letters need to be mailed).
5. Any forms requiring my signature.
In addition to the above I reserve the right to require additional information from you, for example:
7. Your unofficial transcript(s).
8. A summary of your academic achievements.
9. Any written materials you will be submitting with your application.
10. Notes on anything in particular that I should emphasize for each position.
Ultimately, I reserve the right to refuse to write a letter a recommendation and to do so without explanation.
I will only submit recommendations if students waive their right to inspect/access/view their letters. Contact me if you are unclear about this or would like to discuss it further.
If I agree to write a recommendation for you, that agreement only applies for one application cycle. If, for example, you are not accepted by graduate schools one year, do not assume that I will be prepared to write more recommendations for you the following year. As a general rule, I will only do so if you have significantly improved your own application. If you are not accepted to graduate school after two application cycles you should seriously reconsider your academic aspirations and future goals.
If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to email me or drop-by during my office hours.
John L. Knight
[updated: July 2014]