Letters of recommendation

I am happy to write letters of recommendations for students that I know well. Usually this means that you have interacted with me in some way other than just showing up to class—for example, you may have taken multiple classes with me, worked in my lab, or made frequent visits to my office hours. This is not because I will otherwise write you a negative letter, but rather because the letter would be brief and superficial. Admissions committees can spot such letters a mile away, and they will do you more harm than good. If I am not able to write you a strong letter, I will let you know upfront.

When to ask

Please ask me about letters at least 3 weeks before the deadline. If you ask after that point, I cannot guarantee that I will be able to submit a letter for you on time. While some people feel recommendations should always be asked for in person, I am happy to respond to requests via email.

What to send me

You should send me the following materials at least 3 weeks in advance of the deadline:

  • A list of all schools/programs you are applying to (be specific—e.g., "University of Antarctica Ph.D. program in Linguistics"), including due dates, how recommendations should be submitted (email address? website? snail mail address? will they phone me?), and whether there is a form that needs to be filled out in addition to the letter.
  • All documents you plan to submit as part of your application, especially your CV/resume and personal statement (it's ok if these are just drafts).
  • If you took classes with me, please list the courses, semesters and grades, and include a copy of one or more papers/assignments that you are proud of, preferably with my comments on them.
  • If the program has one, a list of criteria being used for selection (this is more common with grants and fellowships than with graduate school applications).
  • Anything else that might help me write a detailed, personal letter. This might include transcripts, an anecdote you remember from class that shows you in a positive light, a list of key points you would like stressed in the letter (subject to my approval!), or some other piece of evidence that I can include in my letter. You can also tell me why some program is a particularly good fit for you and what your future career plans are.

Following up

I will let you know when I submit your letter(s). If a deadline is approaching (say, 3 days away) and you haven't gotten such a message from me, feel free to email me a reminder.

My contact information for forms

Most schools will ask you for several ways to contact me:

Name: Aaron Braver
Title: Assistant Professor of Linguistics
Address: Texas Tech University Department of English
P.O. Box 43091
Lubbock, TX 79409-3091
Phone: (806) 834-7127
Fax: (806) 742-0989
Email: aaron.braver@ttu.edu

Waive your right to view my letter

Many forms ask you to check a box to waive your right to view my letter. This is to ensure that the admissions committee receives a confidential, frank, and honest assessment. Letters that aren't confidential carry less weight, so I recommend you waive your right to view my letter. Rest assured that I will not write a negative letter without first discussing it with you. 

Let me know what happened

I always like to hear whether students were accepted into whatever program they applied for. Please let me know if you got what you were hoping for!