The CWS is aware that faculty spend substantial time writing letters of reference. The guidelines for Requesting Faculty References should help students to clarify their responsibilities in requesting a reference from you.
Experience has taught us that the answers to the following questions may be helpful to consider in constructing an effective reference:
- In what capacity and for what length of time have you known the student?
- How would you assess the student’s ability and performance in the areas pertinent to the program or position for which she is applying? Please give specific examples to support your evaluation.
- Would you recommend this student for the program or position for which she is applying?
While it is helpful for you to gain as much information as possible from the student regarding her key strengths and experiences, asking a student to draft a letter for you to use places a student in an awkward position. The most effective recommendations are those written in the voice and words of the recommender.
Almost all graduate and professional schools will be happy to receive a letter of reference written for their type of academic study or employment without naming the specific school or organization. If you are submitting a letter in hard copy (versus online), it should be written on college stationery and signed. Depending on your preference and the applicant’s request, you may send your reference directly to the program or employer, or to the CWS, where your letter will be copied, mailed, and retained in the applicant’s file. If you send your letter to the CWS, it must be attached to a CWS Letter of Reference Waiver Form signed by the student so that we will know whether or not your letter should be held confidential.