Tuesday, September 12, 2006

In which I have a dilemma

One of my students from my spring course at UChaos has asked me for a law-school recommendation. I warned her off that she didn't want one from me because, um, I'm not a faculty member? Like, at all? But then I get a response that she's "talked to some people" and is comfortable using me as a recommender. I'm happy to write for her, because she was good in class and all, but I'm still concerned that I'll be her death knell. She's applying to big-city schools, so I know they'll be expecting high-caliber letters. Should I even agree to this, and figure out a way to address the weirdness of me in my letter? Or should I beg off, somehow?

7 comments:

Steph said...

Just checking to see if the comments are working, as Circus Girl had a problem with them.

katie said...

I have had the same problem, and I always begged off. She may feel comfortable using her as a recommender, but she isn't as versed in the requirements and tricky social faux pas of grad school applications. And trying to address why you may be a not-so-great recommender within a letter of recommendation will be frustrating at best.

You might try asking her who her other recommenders are before you make your decision - if they are all big names then you can totally stand in as a witness to her exceptional work (write her something glowing and explain that you had a lot of contact with the student on her project, so she has asked you to write on her behalf because of your excellent understanding of her work...blah blah)- if they aren't, back out and protect this girl from herself.

katie said...

uh... "you", not "her"

Al said...

Ok, so your comments don't like me--I had this brilliant argument written, but now it's gone. Anyway, the point was this: since she was a student in one of your stand alone classes, you might be able to write the letter without addressing the weirdness. You might also be able to offer a perspective on her work that her other recommenders can't. I agree with Katie that you should check and see who her other recommenders are, and if you're likely to know her better, and want to write the letter, I say go for it.

Flavia said...

Yeah, my comment disappeared, too.

Here's the gist: I don't think your writing a letter would be the kiss of death. Get some university letterhead from the departmental secretary and write a detailed, specific, glowing letter (if the student deserves it), showing WHY you know her so well: you taught her twice a week in a writing intensive class; you've taught X students in your years at University, and she's in the top 5%; whatever. Sign yourself, "Instructor, Department of English."

I mean, whatever. You're a credible recommender, affiliated with a credible institution. Better a strong letter from you than a weak, generic one from a full professor (who would not, necessarily, be recognized as important by a law school admissions committee, anyway).

St.Eph said...

Thanks for the responses. I think I'll go through with it, since I already told her I'd be her last-ditch option. I'll be sure to make it clear that I taught her in a stand-alone, discussion-heavy, writing-intensive course, and use the impressive letterhead.

(Still not sure what's happening with the comments. I've tweaked some stuff in the template, which I hope will help.)

Al said...

Re: comments. It seems to not work when I'm signed into blogger....