Saturday, December 18, 2010

Need a Letter of Recommendation?

If you wanna a letter of rec, be sure to read this page completely. Since I have no arms, I need quite a bit of time to type, ok?
If you are a current or former student and would like a letter of recommendation from me, then please read the following policy and guidelines.


  • You must have completed at least one of my courses that met at least twice a week (28 meetings in one semester). If you are applying for graduate school, you should have taken at least two courses, of which one required you to submit papers or essays. *Freshmen applying for non-academic part-time positions are exempt from this requirement if they are currently in my class for at least eight (8) weeks.
  • You must have visited me in my office and talked to me at length on at least three (3) different occasions prior to your request. As a result of these visits, I should know your name without referring to a class list, and at least three of the following four: 1. Your school; 2. your major; 3. your interest in Japanese language and/or literature; 4. where you are from. If you are wondering whether or not I remember you, then chances are I don't know you well enough to write a strong and convincing letter of recommendation. I cannot write a recommendation for any student based solely on a grade or one aspect of the student's performance, such as writing ability, project presentations, or language proficiency. NOTE: I will fill out language proficiency/evaluation forms for students who have completed any of my language courses within two years of completion of the course.
  • I reserve the right to refuse a request for a letter of recommendation for any reason. But in general, I will refuse because I don't know you well enough, or I don't think I can write you a solid letter of support.

Making a Request
  • A request for a letter of recommendation is a special request: In effect, you are asking for the time and effort of the writer. All such requests should be made in person at the convenience of the writer not the recipient. If you have a request, please come see me in my office during office hours. If you cannot physically come, a letter or phone call is sufficient. Faxes and emails should be a last resort. A request at the end of class--Hey sensei, can you write me a letter of recommendation? I need it by Friday!--tells me that the student regards the letter of recommendation as a simple, informal, and maybe even unimportant component of the application process. As perhaps an unintended consequence, I end up writing a letter that reflects the student's attitude.
  • Your request must be made within two years of the last course you took from me--young people can change so much in just two years, that I would find it difficult to write anything with confidence--with the exception of those who have kept in touch with me continuously since that last class. (Regular correspondence through email or calling me on the phone counts, IM-ing me with a "Wazzup!" or writing on my fb wall, maybe not.)
  • You must make your request for a letter during the first fourteen weeks of a given semester. I will not consider requests at the end of the semester, particularly during Final Examinations. If you make a request without contacting me directly at other times--i.e. during summer or winter break--I cannot guarantee timely delivery due to unforeseeable variables, including availability of computer/printer, research schedule, summer school schedule, vacation.

  • The following must be submitted together.
  • Necessary forms for the recommendation. If there is no specific form, or if recommendations are to be sent online, submit the name and address (or URL) of the institute(s) to which you are applying, typed on a separate sheet of paper with your name on it.
  • Sign the waiver. Most, if not all, applications require your signature to waive your right to view the letter of recommendation. If you do not waive this right, I will not write you a letter. As a matter of principle and policy, a confidential letter of recommendation is no longer confidential if you do not waive this right. There is no exception to this. If you have already had a letter sent in for you and you did not waive this right, I can no longer write a letter for you.
  • Copy of your "Statement of Purpose" or proposal if required by the institute(s) to which you are applying. An initial, rough draft is sufficient.
  • Copy of your current resume.
  • Copy of your most recent transcripts. Unofficial transcripts are sufficient.
  • Copy of one graded paper or essay you submitted to me as course work with my comments on it. Do not send an ungraded paper or a paper for another class (I am not qualified to judge writings in other fields). Students who only took language courses(001-2; 105-6) are exempt. Copies will not be returned.
  • If you are not presently a student or if you do not need to submit a "Statement of Purpose" with your application, submit a short one-page letter/essay addressing your current circumstances and goals.

Timetable and delivery
  • Make your request for a Letter of Recommendation and submit all of the above material at least three weeks before the deadline.
  • Submit all material to me in person during office hours. If you cannot deliver it personally, please mail your request to me with all pertinent material.
  • Please confirm your request--by e-mail or telephone--one week before the deadline. I admit that there are times when I may forget.
  • If you cannot pick up your recommendation, you should provide for each letter a large, self-addressed envelope--approx. 9" X 12" --into which I can enclose the letter sealed in its own GW envelope. Requests without postage will be sent through the... um... GW mail system... If you include postage, please enclose it separately.
  • As policy, I write only one letter of recommendation per request per institute. If you lose the recommendation, I will NOT provide another one.
  • As a courtesy, you should refrain from asking for recommendations to a large number of institutes at any single time. (Large=more than five) Sending letters to different institutes is not just a matter of changing names. And I would rather prefer to avoid writing "To whom it may concern" letters. After the initial crafting of the letter, this requires 1. typing in the address; 2. ensuring that each appearance of the institute and program is changed and spelled correctly--I incorporate the name of the program and/or institute at least twice into the body of each letter; 3. occasionally tweaking the language to fit the program--a letter to a graduate program for literature is different than one for linguistics, an Asian studies program requires more focus on Japan than an international affairs program; 4. signing the letter; 5. filling in appropriate information on the institute's own cover sheet; 6. matching each letter with the appropriate cover sheet; 7. finally addressing and sealing the envelope. This takes about 15-20 minutes. If I was an automaton, it would still take me at least two hours to prepare eight different letters after crafting the letter. So, again, show courtesy.

Other Considerations
  • I respond to requests for letters of recommendations with the intent of helping the student fulfill his or her goals and aspirations. Consequently, I attempt to provide what the institute requiring a recommendation wants: As much pertinent info about you as I know, which typically includes not only your grades, but your analytical abilities, your academic potential, your leadership qualities, your social sensibilities, and others.
  • I address these concerns by pointing to things such as:
    • Intellect: Good writing and analysis in essays/papers
    • Seriousness: Solid attendance, including not being tardy
    • Responsibility: Assignments--homework and papers--turned in on time
    • Demeanor: A regard for others in a group setting (class) as manifested in a notable lack of unnecessary chatting or disruptive tardy entrances, as well as cordial attitudes, actions and comments/responses toward classmates
    • Leadership: Volunteering in class, participating in study abroad sessions, demonstrating a willingness to advise underclassmen
    ...just to name a few.
  • The submissions that accompany your request, as well as the totality of your presence in my class and office, help me to craft a solid, convincing and, hopefully, successful letter. In other words, YOU are the person who determines whether a letter of recommendation is good or not because ultimately, I need something to work with.
  • This should go without saying, but you should know that I will be very honest in my letter. If I don't think I can write you a solid letter, I will tell you so. This is not to be mean to any one particular student, but to be fair to all my students. By being honest, I am being fair to all my past students, and I am giving a fair opportunity to all my future students.
  • If you have read this far, then you have probably come to the conclusion that writing a letter of recommendation is a serious endeavor for me. If you think that the recommendation you require is just a formality--that it is "no big deal" and can be whipped out with minimal effort--then please consider asking someone else.
  • Consider these issues if and when you decide to ask me for a letter of recommendation.

Contact Information
  • Academic Center, Rome Hall 460.
  • Phone: 202-994-0050
Mailing Info
  • East Asian Languages and Literatures
    The George Washington University
    Rome Hall 469
    801 22nd Street, N.W.
    Washington, DC 20052
(update history: 2005.02.09; 2006.01.20; 2007.05.01; 2009.01.22; 2010.12.18)


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