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Letters of recommendation

I am happy to provide letters of evaluation to students who request them. Please make an appointment so that we can discuss your plans, and how I can best assist you. Please understand that I write these letters for many people, so I need your help in locating information about you. It is acceptable to ask for many letters of recommendation, provided you take care of all the routine information that is requested. For maximum efficiency, I need the following things from you (electronic copies, and preferably in one clearly labeled email:

  • An unofficial copy of your transcript.
    Mark the courses you took from me. Mostly you will have taken a course from me this term or last term that I remember well, but you may also have taken one from me last year ... or was it the year before?
  • Your statement of purpose.
  • Your CV or resume, and any other information you think might be helpful.
  • One single page or excel file that lists the names of the departments and schools to which you are applying, the deadline dates, and how the recommendation is to be submitted (online, by email, postal service ...). This is my record of the letters I have sent, and when they were sent.
  • Most recommendations are submitted online these days and I receive an email request to submit a recommendation for you. Once I have submitted the recommendation, the acknowledgement to me is usually instantaneous and I presume that you are informed, too. However, requests for recommendations are sometimes caught by a spam filter. I keep my spam file very low and check it often, but sometimes these requests do get missed. I therefore appreciate a reminder about a week ahead of the deadline. Please make sure as much information about me as possible is entered on your electronic application, otherwise I spend much time filling in routine things like name, address, title (see below).
  • If the recommendation is to be submitted by email/postal service on forms that you obtain from the university, please supply those forms, where you have filled in routine things like my name, address, title (see below). Sometimes, there are no forms, and only a letter is requested: if so, please note that.
  • Check the waiver of access box on each recommendation request (paper or electronic). I strongly prefer to write confidential letters, and I will assume that you intend to waive access to the recommendation. If there is no place for such a waiver on a form or if you do not wish to waive that right, please discuss with me well ahead of time.
  • Complete the university-required FERPA Recommendation form that authorizes OSU to release information about you that is otherwise protected under FERPA regulations. The FERPA form allows us to write the letter of recommendation in the first place. It is different from the waiver of access mentioned above, which waives your right to read the letter of recommendation. Return the form to me by email. You can include the names of all universities/companies/agencies to which you apply on a single form, and some students simply write "any organization for which I request a letter of recommendation". I don't know if that's legal but it seems more sensible than filling out new forms all the time. Note that there is an expiration date, so a blanket release lasts only as long as you want it to.
  • Fill in the portion of any form that requests routine information about me:
    Name: Janet Tate
    Title: Professor of Physics
    Department: Physics
    Institution: Oregon State University
    Address: 301 Weniger Hall, Corvallis, OR 97331-6507
    phone: (541) 737-1700

Applications for REU programs, grad schools, and jobs are really important. I, along the rest of the faculty, want to help you as much as possible, but we merely report what we know. Here's how to help generate a good report: Go often to a faculty member's office hours to discuss physics. Ask questions in class. Volunteer answers in class. Be actively engaged in class. Make an effort to make your homework and lab assignments well written, tidy, logically clear and display a feeling for the important physics in the assignment. Keep copies of particularly good assignments and remind the faculty member about them. Attend departmental seminars and colloquia, and discuss them with faculty members. Your letter from your research advisor will be particularly important. Bring your work to your advisor; don't wait to be asked. Make time for discussions with your group members and your advisor. Be active in SPS, and engage in outreach activities that demonstrate your interest in physics.