Helen Boucher’s Letters of Recommendation Policy


I am happy to write letters of recommendation for:

(a)    students who have worked conscientiously on research projects in my lab for at least two semesters,

(b)   students who worked conscientiously on their thesis project with me, and produced a high-quality thesis, and/or

(c)    students who earned a good grade in at least one of my classes, and preferably more than one class (“good grade” means at least a B+). However, you should also have made a mark in classes in a positive way, by participating where appropriate, coming to office hours, and otherwise leaving me with more information about you than your letter grade. What this means is that if you took a large lecture class with me and never showed concrete signs of engagement, please do not ask me for a letter, even if you earned a high grade.

Basically, the better I know you, the likelier I will support you with a letter and the stronger your letter will be. Every year I receive many requests for letters of recommendation, so please do everything in your power to make my job as easy as possible:

  • Make your initial request to me at least a month before the deadline.
  • I will write letters only for students who waive their rights to read their letter. If you do not wish to do so, then please do not ask me to write a letter for you.
  • Tell me clearly what you need the letter for (e.g., study abroad at the University of Florence, an internship program with the United Nations, an M.S.W. program at Washington State University, etc.). The more information I have, the more easily I can tailor the letter to your needs.
  • Get your materials to me as soon as you are able, at least two to three weeks before the deadline. This means if I am mailing the letters myself, give me stamped and addressed envelopes. Give me spreadsheets with due dates, websites of programs or schools, etc.
  • Supply a statement of purpose (or an autobiographical statement, essay, etc.), an unofficial Bates transcript, your resume or vita (i.e., academic resume), and copies of any of your best papers that you may have written in any of my classes that I evaluated.

It is your responsibility to check with the school / program to make sure that your letters of recommendation have been received. If you choose to send me a reminder notice, do it only once, and do it close to the deadline. Typically, I complete my letters of recommendation close to the deadline. Keep me informed of your application process. If I am writing you a letter of recommendation, then I am very interested in knowing how it all turned out, even if it wasn’t exactly as you were hoping.