Although I love almost all aspects of my job, there are a few things that I don’t necessarily look forward to doing. One such thing is writing letters of recommendation. Around this time of year, many of our undergraduate seniors are preparing for graduate school – and part of that preparation requires them to secure X numbers of letters of recommendation.
Don’t get me wrong, I love (most) of our seniors – and I definitely want to write them great letters. I truly believe that they will do well in whatever program they choose, none of that is the issue at hand here. No, the issue is all on me. I’m a harsh critic of myself, and while you probably can’t tell based on the drivel that I put on this blog (among the two blogs that I maintain), I do care.
Letters of recommendation are one of those things that can be super easy to write for a select student or two each year, but for the rest of the students… Oh boy. They can be exceedingly difficult, especially for students who I only had for a class or two or perhaps for a student who didn't get the best grades and/or perhaps didn't stand out in some other spectacular way.
For those of you who write letters for your students (or anyone for that matter), how do you do it? How do you make the letters unique (or don’t you worry about that)? Personally, I think a truly personalized letter is better – but then again, I've never served on an admissions committee. I can’t say that I know for sure what they look for – and if I did, well, I’d guess my own letter writing skills would be a bit better!