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So you want a letter of recommendation...

To write you a letter I require the following:
  1. Send me an initial email asking if I can write you a letter atleast TWO WEEKS before your first deadline. In your first request, please include:
    • What are you applying for? When is your first application or letter due?
    • How long I have known you and in what capacity?
    • Did you do Directed Research, Independent Research, an Honors Activity or your Capstone in my lab? With which graduate student did you work?
    • Was I your Honors College Fellow?
    • Was I your instructor? For which course? When?
    • If you were in PSCH 353 with me, what did you do your project on?
  2. After I let you know that I can write you a letter, then it is critical that you provide all of the information that I need in one follow-up email (or in one package if your schools still require materials in hard copy).
    In this follow-up email, you need to include:
    • A reminder of all of the above information.
    • A complete list of all programs to which you are applying (i.e., MS in Occupational Therapy at Einstein University, or PhD Program in I/O Psychology at Almost-Canada State College).
    • For each program indicate the application deadline, and whether programs will send me an email request directly, or whether I should MAIL a hard copy letter or EMAIL to an address. Be sure to include submission details for each school (Do hard copy letters get mailed directly to programs or back to you? Is there a form that must accompany the letter?)
    • Attach a PDF of an UNOFFICIAL copy of your transcript. (Does not need to be official. Don't pay for official transcript. You can use screenshots, but create a pdf of them for me).
    • Attach a vita/resume that lists all relevant academic, extramural activities and service experiences. Also include your GPA and GRE scores if they are not listed on transcript.  See example of a simple CV on my PSCH 353 course page http://wiley.lsri.uic.edu/psch353/sampvita.html
    • Attach a DRAFT of the personal statement or cover letter that you will be submitting.
    • Be sure to send everything AT ONCE. Do not send requests or materials in separate emails.

  3. If there are any physical forms to complete, please fill in these forms as completely as possible with your own information. Please include envelopes already addressed to the schools, or address labels. Submit these to my mailbox with all other materials in one package (and send me an email to warn me you are doing this so I know to look for this info).
  4. I will confirm when your letters have been sent.



Unless otherwise indicated, personal statements are generally about two pages, and the most important things you need to do in this statement are:
       •  Tell them WHAT YOU ARE INTERESTED IN, and WHY.
            You can include a short personal anecdote or motivation here (i.e., that your family member has a condition that prompted you to pursue this career, or that you took a great class that sparked your curiosity), but this is just a starting place. (Contrary to their name, your statement should not be all that personal.)
       •  Tell them how you have PREPARED yourself for a career in this field (What courses have you taken?  What volunteering have you done?  Have you gotten involved in  research? What have you enjoyed about these experiences?).
       •  Tell them why THEIR PROGRAM/LAB is a good fit for you.

For research-based programs, be sure you mention the research topics and questions and seminal articles that you are interested in, and the names of faculty who do research that you are interested in. Research programs generaly have a mentorship approach and you will work with a specific faculty member. Do your homework and be sure to read publications by the faculty you are applying to work with so you can articulate common interests. Research-oriented PhD programs care most about things like prior research experience, experience in stats, methods and lab courses, and the fit of your research interests with faculty research.  Describe your prior research experience, especially in terms of the theories that are being tested in studies you have helped with.  What manipulations are being using to test what hypotheses? Are there results or preliminary results from the study?  What parts of the research process have you helped with  (i.e. Collecting data, coding data, organizing data, analysis, experimental design, presentations or publications)?

For clinical or other therapy/practice-oriented programs, make sure to talk about your experience/interest in therapy/career-appropriate situations, including field placements, internships, practica or volunteer activies.  Do your homework about each program and mention specific faculty or attributes that are attractive to you.

Do not call yourself "brilliant" or the next Albert Einstein.  Let your letter writers tell the school how wonderful you are.  Your job is to convince them that you are a good fit for their lab or program, motivated, have a good reason for wanting to pursue this career (i.e., can articulate your interests), and have prepared yourself well by telling them what you have done during your time at UIC.

It is VERY important to make sure your personal statement is well written and error-free. The best way to ensure this is to have someone else read it. This is part of why I ask you to send me a copy before you submit it to the school, so you have a chance to get feedback. Also, it helps me write you a better letter if I understand your motivation and preparation.