Letters of recommendation can set students apart from their competitors or, in some cases, make a below average student look mediocre, said Dr. Chet Rispoli, director of Career Development Services.
For students who are about to apply for a competitive position or enter the crowded job market, it is essential to start planning ahead and developing positive relationships with your professors, Rispoli said.
When it comes time to obtain recommendations, some students go about the process in a proper way, while others struggle, said Corinne Snell, director of the Center for Student Professional Development in the Fox School of Business.
Snell helps to prepare and guide students in developing skills to obtain internships and jobs after graduation.Snell said it is important for students to follow up with the professor after they ask for a recommendation.
She said one of the biggest mistakes of her undergraduate career was when she had to ask three professors for recommendations when applying for a graduate program.
“When I called the university, I wanted to check the status of my application [and] they told me it was incomplete because one of my recommendations never came in and therefore [the program] never even considered me as a viable candidate,” Snell said.
“One of my professors just completely forgot to send it in.”
Dana Saewitz, an advertising professor in the School of Communications and Theater, said it is wise for students to give their professor all the necessary information needed including what you are applying for, who to address the letter to, where to send the letter and when the deadline is.
“I’d rather not write a ‘To Whom It May Concern’ letter,” Saewitz said, “but I’ll do it if the student can’t provide me what I need to write a proper business letter.”
The first step to receiving a great letter of recommendation is showing exemplary skills as a student from day one, Saewtiz said. This includes attending and arriving on time for class, and participating in class, she said.
Rispoli said students could obtain better recommendations if they gave their professors an updated resume as well and a detailed description of what they are applying for. That way, professors
can write a letter that directly relates to the qualifications and attributes they are looking for, Rispoli said.
It is important for students to select “someone who can speak well about your capabilities,” Snell said.
One of the best ways a student can show a professor they care is to meet with them during office hour, Saewitz said. Not only does it show that a student is interested in the subject manner, it is also a good way to stand out, especially in a large classroom setting, she said.
When applying for a study abroad scholarship, senior international business major Carly Robkin said she needed two recommendations in order to complete the application.
Robkin said she decided to ask the director of the Business Honors Student Assocation, Dr. Michael Leeds, noting that she not only took one of his classes but also worked closely with him when she obtained an officer position in the Business
Robkin said Leeds was the best person to ask because “he knew me as a good student but also as a dedicated and motivated person outside of the classroom.”
Danielle Buxbaum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.