Sunday, February 28, 2010

Shame! Shame!

I've spent 15 of the last 32 hours or so printing, sorting, collating, filing, annotating, ranking the applications submitted by this year's REU aspirants.

We ended up receiving materials from 261 different students, and 190 of those were complete enough to consider (missing at most one rec letter). I've begun the painstaking process of identifying those students I'd most like to invite to this year's installment of "Groups, Graphs, and Geometry," to begin in early June.

I'd like to share a few things that irked me about the materials submitted by the various parties to this process, both the student applicants and their faculty recommenders.

To the students: should you ever apply to an REU or to a similar program and have need to call on your professors to write a letter on your behalf, please have the courtesy to actually submit your application. If sometimes world-famous math professors have taken the time to tailor-make a two-page letter describing your talents, you can take the time to follow through on your plans to apply to the program for which you needed that two-page letter in the first place.

To the faculty: should one of your students call on your to write a letter on her behalf, please take the time to ensure that you actually know that student's name, and know how to spell it right. (Faculty from R-1 research-intensive institutions are often guilty of this oversight.) It also wouldn't hurt to bother to write more than two or three lines elegizing your student, particularly if she's a good one. (I'm making the assumption that should you have agreed to write a letter in the first place, the student likely merits the support you're offering.) There's only so much one can read into a letter whose entirety is "Cassandra was a strong student. I've had her in three classes, and she's done well in all of them. She's usually good about getting her assignments in on time. I think she'll be great in your program."

Common courtesy, folks: I'm only asking for common courtesy.

To be continued, I'm sure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you on BOTH ends.

General/non-specific recommendations from faculty are useless. If you do not know a student well enough to write a letter that will shed some light on that individual, then do one of two things:

1 - Do not agree to write one.
2 - Sit down with the student and get to know them.

Just do not waste everyone's time.