- Before asking a professor for a letter of recommendation, you should be sure that you have a relationship with that professor. This doesn't mean you are friends with them. This means that they know who you are. Ideally this should be a professor you have known for 2 or more semesters, who you have visited in office hours, and in whose classes you have made A's.
- You should give your professor plenty of time to write the letter of recommendation. Ideally, you would ask them at least a month in advance. However, two weeks may be sufficient if you are on a tight deadline. If you have to ask with even shorter notice, don't let it stop you, but be aware that they may have to say 'no' due to other, previous commitments.
- Ask politely. This can be in person or via email, but your request should be respectful and polite.
- Provide your professor with the information they will need to write the letter or make the nomination. A resume, personal statement, a reminder of the courses you took with them and your grade in that course, any information about yourself that you hope they will highlight in the letter, and important deadline and submission information.
- Finally, thank your professors (literally, just say thank you), and tell them the outcome! Email them and say that you got admitted to law school, got the scholarship (or didn't), etc. If they care enough about you to write a letter of recommendation, then they will also care enough to want to hear the outcome.
Did you know you can nominate yourself for things? You can nominate yourself for awards, scholarships, fellowships, grants, etc. When it comes to scholarships in particular, you can, and should, actively seek out options and apply. Awards can be a little more specific. There are some university awards, for instance, that require a faculty member to nominate a student. You can ask a faculty member to nominate you for these. Your professors may absolutely love you and think that you deserve every award in existence, but perhaps the specific awards or deadlines aren't on their radar. It does no harm to bring it up with them. That being said, let's talk about how to ask a professor for a recommendation or nomination.
I got really behind over the last two weeks, it doesn't matter why. The point is, this week I needed to dos some damage control and get back on track. There are two types of recovery that you may need to do when you get really off track or behind. The first type is the practical recovery of re-focusing and getting back on track. This involves many of the same steps as we've discussed previously regarding goal management.
If professors were brave enough to get forehead tattoos, just about every single one of us would choose to have "read the syllabus" emblazoned across our faces. But, I'm not sure that everyone knows exactly what we mean by read the syllabus. Are we just asking that students look over the syllabus at the beginning of the semester? No.
"Read the syllabus" involves much more than just glancing through in August / January, and you'll find that there are significant benefits to having the syllabus available throughout the course of the semester. For most professors, the syllabus functions as both a class calendar, and as a kind of contract. The syllabus contains most of the information that you will need to be successful for the class. Every professor writes their syllabus a little different, but almost all syllabi share some common components. Here's what to look for.
Getting started on writing an essay for class, or anything else for that matter, can be incredibly challenging. Having the confidence to share your writing or knowing that it is ready to submit is even harder. Below are just a few resources that can make the process just a little less intimidating.
The first week of classes is coming up. Are you ready? Have you thought about your academic and personal goals? There are a few concrete steps you can take to have a really successful first week back on campus.
So that's it - a few quick and easy ways to get yourself ready for the semester. Is there anything I've forgotten? What are the ways you get ready for the semester?
After getting not one, but TWO, emails in the last 48 hours addressed to Ms. Clare Brock, I decided it might be time for a new blog post. This time answering the question: how should you address your professor? The short answer is that it is always acceptable to say "professor last-name." The long answer is that if they have a PhD, then they can be addressed as "Dr. last-name" or as "Professor last-name," but if they do not have a PhD then "Professor last-name" is still appropriate. You should not, however, address your professor as "Mrs. / Ms. /Miss" or "Mr."
Who cares? Why does it matter? The answer has everything to do with respect. First, your professor worked very hard for their degree, and in doing so, built up a wealth of expertise. Addressing your professor by their appropriate title shows acknowledgement of that effort and expertise. Second, for women, people of color, queer or LBGTQIA folks, and other marginalized people in the academy, their fight has often been an uphill battle in institutions that are not built for them or for people like them. These faculty members often face discrimination and bias that follows them throughout their careers and works against their promotion and tenure (see literature on bias in student evals, for instance, here). Referring to these faculty members appropriately acknowledges their place in the academy and their hard-won position of (again) expertise. And if you're not sure about your professors degree, then "professor last-name," is always a good choice.
As an undergraduate, you might feel uncomfortable or unsure about "office hours." What are they? What are you supposed to do or say when you go to them? Office hours are the time that your professors specifically designated to meet with students, answer questions, help with homework or essays, and so on. This doesn't mean they won't meet with you other times as well, by appointment. But office hours are YOUR time.
What should you say? You might go to office hours with a specific question in mind. Maybe you missed a piece of the lecture or felt confused, or maybe you had trouble with a homework assignment or want to talk about an essay prompt. But, you don't HAVE to have a question about course materials. You can go, introduce yourself, and discuss college more broadly or just get to know your professor a little bit (and let them get to know you). Here are some suggestions for discussion prompts:
Why should you go talk to your professors? If you're planning to ask a professor for a letter of recommendation, it's very important that they know who you are. It is very difficult for your professor, who likely has hundreds of students each semester, to write a strong letter for someone they've never met. Visiting your professor early in the semester also helps break the ice, that way later in the semester if you find yourself struggling, you feel comfortable asking them for help, and they know who you are. Finally, your professors LIKE students (at least, most of them do). They want to meet you, hear from you, and help you! Hearing from you helps us do our jobs better.
Since this is a political science blog, let's talk about politics and the holidays. The cliche is families that fight about politics over turkey. If you're not sure how politics will be received at home, take this quiz: Should you talk about politics over the holidays? Let me suggest, however, that instead of getting into a fight you might consider switching the topic to Food Politics! Need some ideas?
Finals are rapidly approaching, and crunch time is here. Take a deep breath, remember to have perspective (this is not life or death), and get ready to dive in to studying. For those students who feel desperately behind or overwhelmed, also bear in mind that you are not alone and the best thing to do is meet with your professor and make a plan. Having a plan will feel much better than avoidance.
Once you have a plan (or if you had one all along) then the next thing to think about is how to maximize your studying time. Effective studying will look different for every student, but here are some of the techniques that you might find useful. I recommend trying several, then narrowing down on just a few that you find most helpful.
Receiving and incorporating feedback is something that is challenging for even the most seasoned of writers.
Feedback can often feel like someone is telling you that you aren't good enough, that your work or writing isn't valuable, and that perhaps you as a human aren't sufficient. That feeling is a lie! That is not what feedback is about.
Feedback, when given in the spirit of constructive helpfulness, is about improvement. Your teachers, fellow students, and eventual coworkers and bosses, all want you to be your best self and produce your best work. They (hopefully) want to build you up, not tear you down. So let's talk about how to use feedback. To start with, the writing center at UNC has this helpful guide to getting, understanding, and effectively using feedback on your writing.
So knowing that feedback isn't about being mean, and it IS about helping you reach full potential, what are some ways to make feedback work for you?