last updated: Mon, January 13, 2020 10:36 AM




January 13, 2020: I am accepting no more requests for recommendation letters (references are okay) unless the due date is after February 15, 2020. The number that need to be written has reached capacity.


I like supporting my students. But I don't use templates for recommendation letters so each one is time-consuming. I need you to follow the below instructions so I can handle the high volume of letters I write each year.

I've recently rewritten this document completely. If something seems odd, there might be a proof-reading or copy-and-paste issue. Ask me please.

STEP ONE—Initial Contact

I rarely do letters earlier than a day or so ahead of the due date. If that is okay, keep reading…

  1. Ask me no later than two weeks before the due date (sometimes this is not possible—you can try asking but I sometimes must say no). Important exception: medical school letters are often requested very early but you need to RECONFIRM with a second TRACKING email during March of the year you are applying. I will decide by April 10 for whom I can write letters and let you know. (If you don't hear from me, check with me by email.) I sometimes need to use a randomized selection process to keep the number of requests manageable.
  2. Please make your initial official request no earlier than three months before the due date, via email or in a scheduled office hours appointment. Tell me the what and when with details such as, "I'll be applying to law school. It is a rolling application but I hope I could get a letter by …. ." Or, "I'm applying for overseas study through EAP and the letter would be due… ." Or, "I would like to list your name as a reference to my job application at such-and-such. It is possible that they will want to call you." Give a few more details if you think it will help me understand the situation. Then wait. Then email me again if I don't answer within two weeks. Put "RECLETTER" or "recletter" in the subject line with your name. That is very, very helpful.
  3. In my response, I'll let you know whether I can write a letter or not. I get many requests for letters of recommendation. They come in various shapes and sizes with some that are vastly more difficult than others. I receive requests throughout the year, and there is never a time when I don't have letters on my list waiting to be written. Whether I can write a letter for you depends on a combination of how many letters I am writing in a given year (I don't like to do more than 60), timing of your request + number of recletters already queued up + work calendar status, and the nature of the letter (which decides its level of difficulty thus how long it might take). Late requests are especially sensitive to these issues. Letters can never be done quickly, because I do not use templates. Each letter is written with care and has details based on conversations, course submissions, grade results and so forth. If I say I cannot write at this time, it is because there is some unworkable combination of my calendar measured against the level of difficult of the letter requested.
  4. If I say "yes" then send me a "TRACKING" email, following the below instructions.
  5. Remind me two weeks ahead of your first deadline.

STEP TWO—The "TRACKING" email from you to me

This is an email, not a message, or an office conversation.

If you do not send a TRACKING email WITH TRACKING IN THE SUBJECT LINE, nothing will happen. You simply will never be put on my recletter to-do list or countdown app.

All students need to formally ask via email to my address, even if we have talked in the classroom, hallway, or office. I use the emails to generate the to-do lists, and track progress.

TRACKING email content—Subject line

Please put these three items in the subject line using the format in the examples (the date allows my to do list app to capture the email and put it in the correct place on my to do list): 

  1. First recommendation letter due date as mm/dd/yyyy how submitted (online / mail / hand-off)
  4. First name you will use on the applications (First name I know you by, if different) RECLETTER


1/18/2019 (mail) TRACKING POLK Alicia RECLETTER

6/1/2019 (online, rolling) TRACKING YAMADA Albert Tatsuo ("Tatsu") RECLETTER

TRACKING email content—the email itself

Cut-and-paste into your TRACKING email the below list, then complete the portions that have "lorem", according to the instructions listed under "Details on each of the above"


1. LINKS and/or FORMS



Classes (number, semester, year) you have taken with me:



Have I written a letter for you before? (When): lorem




Ways of contacting you on short notice in the week ahead of the due date:








TRACKING email content—Details on each of the above


List all recommendation letters you are requesting  IN CORRECT ORDER BY DATE (first to come due as at the top of the list, with ACCURATE & HONEST due dates (if they are dishonestly listed, this might be mentioned in the recommendation letter itself), of services or institutions or enterprises to which I am sending letters, as well as how I am sending the letters.

IF THIS LIST CHANGES (EITHER ADDING OR DROPPING REQUESTS) YOU MUST SEND A NEW REQUEST. You cannot just ask the university to send me a link I will not complete it unless your request is in the TRACKING email and I will not look at more than one TRACKING email. Keep it organized and up to date.

Due date (how I will submit using "you" to mean me, Wallace and "me" to mean you the student) — Institution name

Your institution list should use the ACTUAL due date, except in the case of "rolling" admissions where you can request a reasonable date (explain your choice)


Online —— Feb 1, 2019 —— Wharton School University of Pennsylvania

Digital letter via email (overseas, directly from you to them) —— April 1, 2019 —— Cambridge Judge Business School

Paper letter (overseas, letter to me) —— Feb 1, 2019 —— Osaka University —— MA in Japanese literature

Paper letter (domestic, letter to me) —— Dec 1, 2019 —— Stanford Hospital —— Laboratory Assistant

Paper letter (handed from you to them) —— Feb 1, 2019 —— EAP Office, Berkeley —— Overseas study

Paper letter and form (handed from you to you) —— Feb 1, 2019 —— EAP Office, Berkeley —— Overseas study

Reference listing only —— May 15, 2019 —— Microsoft Game Developer Teams (S.F. Office) —— internship

2. LINKS and/or FORMS

Provide information regarding links or emails I should expect to receive from institutions or services. This is because most of the time these links do not include your name so it is hard for me to search for the email.


When you leave classes information blank I will just say, "I have had a few classes with this student in the past few years" or some other appropriately vague sentence. It is really better if you track this down. 


Tell me yes or no and, if yes, give me some details. You don't need to give a full list or even be that accurate. I just want to know if I should be able to find something on my computer and if so, more or less where to look.


It is the student’s choice whether or not to waive the right to read the letter that I write. I feel I write better letters when I don’t have to visualize “double readers”—How will the admissions committee interpret this sentence? How will the student interpret this same sentence? I feel the prose is more natural and persuasive when I can treat the admissions committee as the king/queen to whom I am talking. Also, some faculty say that letters where students have not waived their rights are taken less seriously. I have no real proof of this one way or the other but it is something to keep in mind. Most forms and websites tell me what you have done but you might want to include it in this email, too.


I ask this because now and then I get ready to write a letter on the last day and the URL has expired, or nothing ever arrived, or I can't find what did arrive. Sometimes, rarely, I have last-minute questions that I need answers to in order to finish the letter.


Recletter initial lines, written by you, for each institution. (So there might be just one of the below, or many of these.) Complete the address and the portions inside the brackets [ ].

[address of the institution to which you are applying—if you do not include this, I do not include this and it looks better if there is an address]

Dear Admissions Committee,

[your full name as on the application] has asked that I write a letter in support of [his, her, or your preferred pronoun) application to [name of institution]'s program in [name of program], to work towards a degree in [name of degree], beginning in [year the program begins or Fall / Spring plus the year the program begins].

If you are using a letter service instead of asking me to send to a specific institution:

[name of the letter service you are using]

Dear Admissions Committee,

[your full name as on the application] has asked that I write a letter in support of [his, her, or your preferred pronoun) application to [name of degree] programs in [name of types of programs], to work towards a degree beginning in [year the program begins or Fall / Spring plus the year the program begins].

*NOTE: I will not grammar check or spell check this paragraph. Also, sometimes this format isn't a good fit. Adjust it as you feel is appropriate. I'm asking this because I actually spend a lot of time looking up programs online because I do definitely think specific information here has a strong impact for the letter. Also, don't worry about the "Admissions Committee" phrasing. Usually this is best but if it is an award or a fellowship or such I'll adjust it at my end (for example "Dear Selections Committee and Chair" or whatever).

A recent start of one of my recletters then looked like this, using what the student submitted:

Columbia Business School
Master of Science Program
311 Uris Hall
3022 Broadway, MC 9133
New York, NY 10027-6902

January 5, 2019

Dear Admissions Committee,

xxx XXX has asked that I write a letter in support of her application to Columbia Business School's program in Marketing Science, to work towards a degree in Master of Science, beginning in Fall 2019. I am delighted to do so. I have been teaching for 25+ years with the last two appointments being at Stanford University 1999-2003 then here at Berkeley beginning in 2003. I will compare xxx to the undergraduates whom I have taught during that time who seem to be bound for advanced studies—this would be 1,500 or perhaps 2,000 students.



Things you might want to share with me about your application. (I won't go back to and perhaps might not remember earlier emails, so repeat things here if you want.) You can say whatever you want, explaining the situation.


I appreciate but do not require CVs, transcripts, statement of purposes, past essays written, etc. Your call on these. 

My contact info

Please input this information when possible.

Institutions and letter services ask for my address, email, sometimes my phone, and my title. I really appreciate when you are able to fill this information in for me but it doesn't always work that way.

Title: Senior Lecturer (if space is limited, then just "Lecturer")

Relationship: Instructor

Tel: 510-972-3339 (no fax number)


The full address (adjust as necessary) is:

3413 Dwinelle Hall
Dept of East Asian Languages and Cultures
Berkeley, CA 94720-2230 USA

STEP THREE—Reminders from you to me

I NEED A REMINDER TWO WEEKS BEFORE THE DUE DATE. This will insure there hasn't been any miscommunication between us.

You are also welcome to send me reminders at other times if you are nervous. I understand your concerns. I write 90% of my letters in the last 24 hours before they are due but I don't mind reminders. I might not reply to your email, but I'll try to.

Special requests

Please give me completed forms where possible (or complete the online portions that you can complete). 

It is nice to know how things turned out. :)