FOR THOSE REQUESTING LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION FROM SAKAI
This seems like a lot of hoops to jump through, but these will help me write you an excellent letter of recommendation. Please present the material in a package, not piecemeal.
1. Check to see if your campus has a reference service
that will securely house letters and send them out for you. This makes me
happy, as I do not have to write 15 letters for you. I will write one letter for you which I submit to the reference service along
with a form (See #10). The service then sends out "official"
letters to each school you request. You usually do have the option of asking for
an updated letter from me at some later time.
For those who have been out of school for a while or your campus does not have a reference service, I just learned about a site called Interfolio (www.interfolio.com or Interfolio, Inc. 190 L Street, NW #603, Washington, DC 20036. I do not know too much about it and am NOT advocating its use, except that several students in recent semesters asked that letters be sent electronically to Interfolio. A quick glance at the website indicates that it can help manage your C.V., certificates (e.g. that you are EMT certified), abstracts of papers you have written, etc.
Another site that is becoming popular is AMCAS (American Medical college Application Service) of the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges. Popular might not be the best word, as most of the major medical schools will be using it, and that means the others will soon follow suit. The following link will take you to their sites http://www.aamc.org/students/amcas/. And of course, UCLA has its own service. I believe there is pharmacy school and vet school services as well. There is an equivalent for Dental Schools.
2. Full name (name you used when you were in my class. Important if you got married, or divorced, since then) with your SMC Student Number. I used to request your Social Security Number as well, but it seems most everyone has eliminated that requirement and use their own tracking system. That said, make sure #3 below is current, just in case.
3. Your address and telephone numbers (both home and work, especially if you do not have an answering machine). Your email address is vital, in case I have a question or two.
4. When you took my class(es), what class(es), and what grade(s) you earned. In general, it is best that you have gotten an "A" in my class, with the exception of Biology 23 (7) . If you are a former Biology 23 (7) student, what was your group project? You might even provide me with a copy of your paper. If you were a Biology 3 student, any grade less than an A will make it difficult for me to write you a good letter.
More on grades. Although an "A" is great, it will not guarantee an outstanding letter. I have had students who ended up #1 in the class point-wise, but were pure vanilla or less. It was almost as if the student was using a Star Trek cloaking device in my class! My best letters have often gone who my solid B students, who had the passion for biology. See appearances.
Even more on grades. Just add another hoop to this, there is something called Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). I have never read this document, but powers wiser than your Sensei passed this piece of legislation although bear in mind that senator means senile old men. Apparently one provision states that "the instructor may not disclose course grade information without prior written consent of the student." The legal-types at SMC has determined that you must submit to me a written signature giving consent form so all concerned are in full compliance. A signed form/letter either scanned and emailed to me, faxed to me is sufficient, or sent as a hard copy. This apparently applies even if I am vague as to your grade, as in "one of my top students in the class." Apparently, this also applies to those recommendation forms that ask me to rate you on your "maturity" (on a scale of 1-5). The following is a link to a consent form produced by SMC http://www.smc.edu/Projects/2/Letter_of_Reference_FERPA_release.pdf. If the link does not work, you can find FERPA on the SMC website.
5. Transcript of college courses taken at SMC and at other campuses especially after you left SMC. Official transcripts are not necessary.
6. A biography. Your "philosophy statement" for your university application is helpful and useful start, but I am looking for something more personal in nature.
a. Where did your budding interest in your chosen major came from?
b. What have you done to test your interest in your major? Premeds - have you worked for a doctor, volunteer at the hospital, worked at a Free-clinic, volunteered at an AIDS facility? Design majors - have you worked for a graphics firm? Environmental Science - what internships have you done? Lead nature hikes, worked on recycling programs? Have you worked in a research lab?
c. If it has been several years since you took my class, what have you been doing since.
d. Most important, what should I mention about you? Why are you so great?
7. Unless I know you fairly well as a student and have kept in touch, it is best that you come in and visit with me for a while to discuss your life.
8. Letter of Recommendation forms, if they are required by the school. Signed if necessary.
9. Addressed Stamped envelope is generally unnecessary. It is better if I use an "official" Santa Monica College envelope. Just provide the address where I am to send the letter. Even if you want to enclose the letter with the application as a package, a SMC envelope is still better. You do not have to give me stamps; SMC will pay for postage :). Remind me if I am suppose to sign the back flap of the envelope (required by some).
10. If there is a non-disclosure waiver to sign (agreeing that you waive rights to viewing the letter of recommendation), please sign them. In general, if I can not say something nice about you, I will decline to write you a letter. but it makes me feel more comfortable if such waivers are signed.
11. A number of universities and organizations are now using web based letters of recommendation forms. They will generally provide you with an "access" number/code that you pass on to me.
12. Please note any pressing due dates. In general, it is not wise to ask for a letter due the day after tomorrow. Please give me a few weeks.
13. Keep Sakai on the ball. If you wish to make sure I have sent the material, you can (1) provide me with a self-addressed postcard, (2) call me about a week before the due date. In general, I will email you when letters are sent.
14. Appearances. - read the page following this page.
Your Sensei, Walter H. Sakai
Update: 11 February 2013