Georgetown University
Department of History
H. R. Spendelow
Letters of Recommendation
 updated:  21 Nov 2014

This hand-out is intended as a guide for students requesting letters of recommendation.  I am (usually) more than happy to write such letters for students who have taken any of my courses or for whom I serve as advisor,  but there are a number of steps which you could take to make the whole process go more quickly and smoothly for both of us.

First of all, here's a checklist of the items I'll need [this list dates back to the late twentieth century, before it became normal to submit recommendations on-line; adapt as necessary to current electronic realities]:

  1. The forms provided by the school or organization to which you are applying.  Please fill in all of the information blanks, including those identifying the recommender (i.e., me), except for the signature and date.  The relevant data are:

      Howard R. Spendelow
      Associate Professor
      Department of History - ICC 607
      Georgetown University
      Washington DC 20057-1035
        (202) 687-6198

    Make sure you have dealt, one way or another, with the "waiver" section, if any.

  3. Copies of any essays which you are required to submit with your application.  These do not have to be in final form, but should be complete enough to give me a clear idea of how you are presenting yourself.

  5. A copy of your curriculum vitæ, or résumé
    1.  I ask for the résumé  for two reasons:  first, it gives me a record of your past study, travel, and work experiences, which helps me write a more focused and supportive letter; and second, a clearly-written and succinct résumé is a very important professional tool; even if you don't need one for this particular application, you'll need one later on, so you might as well get started on it now.
  6. A covering note:
    1. telling me when the recommendation is due (and whether this is a "postmark" or "arrival" date)
    2. reminding me what courses you took with me, and when
    3. describing the organization's goals and selection criteria, if this isn't a standard graduate-school or study-abroad application
    4. giving the recipient's address, if it isn't clear from the form
    5. providing any further information which I might not be aware of but which you feel with strengthen your application
    6. letting me know how to get back in touch with you, in case I have some follow-up questions
    This note is particularly crucial if there is no standard form to be filled out.
  7. Items which I do not need include:
    1. transcripts -- generally, I will be writing only about your work with me, and not about your overall record
    2. envelopes -- if you're given a special envelope for returning the recommendation, then pass it along; otherwise, don't bother -- my computer can easily print out an envelope along with the letter
    3. postage -- letters go out with the regular Departmental mail
Next, you might want to schedule a conference so we can talk over your application; this will help me get my letter in focus with the thrust of your own presentation, and I may be able to offer some suggestions about your draft essays.

Don't worry too much about multiple requests; as long as I'm doing one letter, the computer makes it fairly easy to plug the text into multiple addresses.  If, however, you're following in the footsteps of one hyper-energetic senior back in 1984 who applied to nineteen different schools, then you may want to rethink your strategy...

Finally, whether it's good news or bad, tell me how your application turned out.  Knowing whether you were accepted or rejected helps me keep track of your progress, and gives me a firmer basis for advising the students who will come after you.

Good luck!