Letters of Recommendation
I am generally happy to write letters of recommendation and to support strong, motivated students in their applications for fellowships, internships, jobs, and graduate and professional school. The following are some guidelines and advice to consider if you are thinking about requesting a letter of recommendation from me.
The most important question to ask yourself is whether you sincerely believe that I can write you a strong, compelling letter. The best letters reflect long or close relationships, in which I have had the opportunity to get to know you as a student and individual. This typically means we will have had some substantial interactions, such as by taking a precept with me, working with me for your junior or senior independent research, working for me as a research assistant, or meeting with me regularly in my capacity as your academic adviser. Be aware that my letters explicitly describe how we know each other and for how long. Also be advised that letters are often quite informative in what they do not say. That is, letters that focus only on your GPA or your grade in my class, without offering further elaboration, suggest that we do not know each other well or that you are not a strong candidate for the position or organization to which you are applying. If you are unsure, you can always ask me whether I think I can write a strong letter.
After I have agreed to write for you, please send me, via email, the following items:
- The deadline and application procedures.
- All materials you are sending to the organization, including cover letters, statements of purpose, writing samples, transcript, CV/resume, etc…
- Any application-specific requirements or guidelines about what the organization would like to hear about in my letter. This will vary from case to case. The more information you can provide me, the better.
Good letters take time and energy to craft. Please give me at least three weeks’ advance notice, but more is always better! Please also send me a reminder one week before the deadline, and, if you haven’t heard from me the day before the deadline, a reminder at that point too. I will send you a note when the letter is in. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!
Working with undergraduates is one of the most rewarding parts of being a Princeton professor. Your junior and senior independent work provides an opportunity for you to pursue an original research project while also developing a close relationship with me as your adviser. Below is some information for prospective and current advisees.
On reading your deliverables. I will read and provide feedback on your written work, provided you give me sufficient advance notice. Even the most generous of advisers are extremely busy, and I am no exception. If we are meeting, I need at least a full day of advance notice prior to the meeting to read your work (longer if you are asking me to read anything of substantial length!). In the special case of the week before the JP and senior thesis due date, be advised that I cannot read full drafts. It is thus extremely important that you adhere to the draft deadline so that there is adequate time for me to read and comment on your work, and for you to respond to these comments in your revisions.
Minutiae: style and citations. I do not have strong preferences about citation style or other style-related issues, as long as you implement your chosen style correctly and consistently. For your reference, you may consult the American Political Science Association’s style manual, which is based on the Chicago Manual of Style.
I receive many inquiries about graduate admission to Princeton’s Ph.D programs. Unfortunately, I am unable to respond to these inquiries or to offer specific advice about your prospects. We admit students to the Ph.D. program itself, not to particular advisers as is the practice in other disciplines or other parts of the world. If you are admitted and interested in working with me, I would be delighted to advise you. There is no need to reach out to let me know in advance that you are applying – just apply! You can find more information about the Department of Politics Ph.D. in Politics and the Woodrow Wilson School Ph.D. in Public Affairs.