It is the reference letter season and I will write here what I often find myself repeating to students working with me on projects.

How can you get good letters when it is time: Good grades + Good communication skills, good work discipline…. To me communication is almost as important as intelligence in an employee or grad. student. A student who is very good academically, but who doesn’t show up on time or write up their research findings, or doesn’t have the curiosity to take the prof’s to do list one step further is not going to get the top marks. Hopefully you have shown that in a class or project.

Who to ask for reference letters: I will write you a letter if you have taken my courses and have done ”well”. If lower than B grade, you should probably show your strength in another course/area. Ideally, you should have at least one solid reference saying that “you were great in this course/project”, which will depend on all of the above aspects of  working together.

If you ask a reference letter from me, please read below:

  • Write a skeleton for me in 3rd person singular (as if I am writing) so I have a draft. Include your major/minor, grades, GPA, ….
  • E.g. Ali/Ayşe is graduating from the CS program with a minor on ….. Her current GPA is ….
  • She has taken … from me and received …. grades.
  • She wants to do ……
  • I know some of you worry about how to write something good about yourselves, I expect an “objective+” statement. That is, write mostly facts, but feel free to write a line or two about your strengths, that I may not know of.