I am generally happy to provide references for students I have taught or tutored. However, before listing me as a reference, there are a few things you should consider…
Before requesting a reference
When applying for a PhD, letters from more senior members of faculty will typically be more helpful than those from junior faculty, unless there are faculty members with close ties to members of the department(s) to which you are applying.
Always try to get reference letters from faculty who know you well and can readily attest to the quality of your work from firsthand experience. For example, someone who teaches a 100-student lecture may not have any real idea of who you are. Something similar might be said for your personal tutor if you do not interact with them apart from the two required meetings (or if you fail to attend those).(1)
When requesting a reference from me
I will need at least two or three weeks of time before your submission deadline; longer lead times are beneficial to you.
Be sure to send me the following:
- Your current CV/resumé.
- A list of the classes you are taking and your UCL student number.
- If marks have been returned, any written work you’ve submitted for my classes.
- A statement of your aims behind applying for the job/program of study. The more information you provide here, the more I can say about how your strengths will fit to the specific position and your longer-term goals.
- If the reference is to be physically mailed, you will need to provide a stamped, addressed envelope. If the reference is to be submitted online, I will need the link or submission email address.
If you do not contact me prior to listing me as a reference, or do not follow the guidelines above, I may not be able to provide a particularly helpful recommendation (or any at all).(2)
(1) In my department, we get roughly 20 personal tutees in addition to the many students we see on a more regular basis in our classes and the 15 or so whose MSc/BSc theses we supervise. Out of all of these students, we see and typically know the least about the personal tutees who don’t interact beyond the university-mandated minimum.
(2) If I write a letter for one round of applications, it does not necessarily mean I will write a letter for future rounds. Information and its availability change over time, which may influence a potential letter.