Tuesday, July 08, 2008


I frequently receive requests from students for letters of recommendation. The requests are for everything from scholarships and bursaries to summer jobs to residency applications. Writing a letter of recommendation for a student is, on the whole, a remarkably pleasant task. After-all, these are medical students; they are (generally speaking) a bright, dedicated and hard-working group of people and singing their praises is a simple and fun thing to do.

That said, I'll share with you that there is a right way and wrong way for a student to make such a request. Here are two examples of requests that I have received in the last few weeks:

1. Student A emailed me and began her email by stating that she hoped I was having a great summer (I am, thank you). That's a nice start, don't you think? Even if she really doesn't care one way or the other. Next came the request for a letter of recommendation for a scholarship. Following that, a detailed explanation of why she was asking for a letter from me in particular, what the scholarship was all about, why she felt that she was deserving of the scholarship (with specific examples) and a nice linky link to a website where I could get further information and submit my letter of recommendation. She did all of this with a two-week window to the deadline for submissions.

2. Student B sent me an email with no information beyond: Hey Dr. K., will you please write me a letter of recommendation. Oh, and it's due tomorrow so you will need to hand-deliver it to Unit #101 on You've Got To Be Kidding Me Street.

I'll leave you to decide which student received a glowing letter of recommendation and which student's email quickly landed in my trash folder.

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