Being asked to write a letter of recommendation is an honor. A student you have mentored and watched grow into the talented individual they are respects your opinion enough to ask you to write a letter of recommendation on their behalf. But are you the best person for the job?
Here are a few things to think about before taking on the responsibility:
- Are you qualified to write this letter?
Even though you may know your student well from science class, but are you able to relate your knowledge of the student's skills to the program they are applying to? For example, if you are a science teacher would you be able to write a supportive letter of recommendation for your student's music program? The answer may not be no, but if you are unable to think of skills your student has that would show them as a good fit for their program, you may want to guide them in another direction.
- Do you have time to write this letter?
Make sure you have time in your schedule to write a quality letter of recommendation. While you may not want to disappoint the person who asked you, it will be less stressful for you and them if you tell them straightforwardly you will not be able to make the deadline.
- Can you write a positive letter of recommendation?
Whether it's because you don't know the student well enough or because you are not too fond of the student, don't agree to write a letter of recommendation unless you can write a supportive one. Not only can a negative letter of recommendation seriously diminish a student's chances of getting into their program, it is a waste of your time to put effort into writing a letter for someone you do not believe in.
If you decline a student's request…don't feel bad if you have to decline a student's request as it is likely in both of your best interests for you to be straightforward about your time and qualifications. However, if possible, try and send your student in the direction of a different faculty member that would be able to help.
If you accept a student's request...consider having a short meeting with your student regarding why they want to enter the program they need the letter for and asking them why they chose you to recommend them. Additionally, ask the student for a copy of their resume so you can have knowledge of the other activities they are involved in.