by Craig Allin
Read This before You Ask for a Letter of Recommendation
I believe in being as objective as I can be in describing the students for whom I write. I accentuate the positive, but I also give attention to the negative. I make specific quantitative comparisons whenever I can. If you wrote the best paper in the class, I will say so and provide some commentary on its relative strengths and weaknesses. If you finished 23rd in a class of 25, I probably won't mention your class rank, but I won't say you did well either. I won't violate the laws of mathematics. Only 50 percent of Cornell students are in the top half of their class.
The experience of writing hundreds of letters over many years has taught me that this honesty serves my students well. My impression is that students I have recommended often do better than one might predict looking only at test scores and grade point averages. My letters are detailed and lucid; I spend a lot of time writing them. I suspect that I have some credibility with schools to which I write regularly.
If you are looking for a candid appraisal and think that I can be of assistance to you, please ask me about writing on your behalf. Please refer to my treatise on Letters of Recommendation for an analysis of their importance and a list of materials I require to assist me in the task.
If you are looking for a puff piece or for someone to lie on your behalf, please look elsewhere.