Recommendations Jerod Weinman < CompSci < Grinnell


Students often ask me to write a letter of recommendation or serve as a reference, even though they may have only take one course from me years ago. In order for me to write a strong letter of recommendation or have a meaningful discussion with recruiter, it is very helpful for students to provide me with the following information.

Note that you need not provide all the information requested below, nor do you need to write an excessively long essay. However, the more information you provide the better my reference can be.

Moreover, if you cannot be bothered to spend thirty minutes completing this request, why are you asking me to spend hours writing letters or preparing for and conducting phone references?

Finally, if you plan to ask me to write a letter or serve as a reference, the first question you should answer (or be prepared to answer if you ask in person) is: Why am I the best person to do this?

If we both agree that I am, I will ask you to provide me with the information below.

Please kindly allow me at least two weeks (from the time you provide your questionnaire responses) for me to write a letter on your behalf. Three weeks is strongly preferred.

Requested Information

Please include:
  1. Your name and current address.
  2. The current date.
  3. A transcript or list of grades (unofficial is fine).
  4. An autobiography, your statement of application, or whatever you may be providing to the program you are applying to, if you are writing one.
  5. A list of places and addresses to which I should send letters.
  6. The deadline for each letter.
  7. Please don't hesitate to remind me a few days before each deadline. Chances are good that if I haven't told you that I've sent the letter, that I haven't sent the letter.

    If you don't have all the places when you initially complete this information request, please try to allow one week for me to submit your letter to any additional places.

  8. The type of recommendation you are requesting (graduate school, job, summer program, general file, etc.). If you are asking me to serve as a reference, something about the kinds of jobs you are looking for would be helpful.
  9. The basis of our contact.
  10. Formal courses (include title, semester, grade, and any especially important or memorable aspects of your performance), independent study, teaching assistant, informal interactions, etc.
  11. Why have you asked me to recommend you.
  12. This could be as simple as "The only A I ever received was in your class" or "The position wants evidence of computer expertise". If you did noteworthy or interesting things in my classes, please remind me of them; statistically speaking, I am unlikely to remember.
  13. Academic achievements.
  14. Tell me about your grades (GPA), major, academic strengths, and weaknesses. Suggest how your academic background has prepared you for the position for which you are applying. INclude anything special or unique about your academic background.
  15. Nonacademic background.
  16. Please tell me about your jobs, hobbies, sports, community work, political or social involvements, travel, etc.
  17. Primary personal and social traits.
  18. Please list five. If you can't describe yourself, think about how a friend would describe you or else ask friends to describe you.
  19. Primary academic and work traits.
  20. Please list five. If you can't describe yourself, think about how a colleague or professor would describe you.
  21. What would you like to be doing with your life in ten years?
  22. If you get the position you are applying for, and it turns out to be harder or less satisfying than you expected, what will you do?
  23. If you don't get anything you apply for, what will you do?
The last three questions are taken verbatim from the late Freda Rebelsky, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Boston University. While they may be a little odd, their answers are often useful and enlightening.
  1. What about your emotional stability and maturity?
  2. What about your character?
  3. What else should I know about you?