LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATIONWhen appropriate, Dr. Serences writes letters of recommendation for past members of his lab, including undergraduate research assistants, 199 students, and honors students. These letters document a student's contribution to the lab in concrete terms, commenting on the student's accomplishments, interactions with others in the lab, productivity, creativity, lab presentations, and work on published papers, posters, and conference presentations. The letter also comments on the student's academic history and their suitability to the position or graduate program to which they are applying.
INSTRUCTIONSBelow are instructions for requesting your letter(s):
(1) SEND EMAIL REQUESTS TO: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(2) In your first email to Dr. Serences requesting a letter, include the following:
• PDF of resume or CV
• PDF of grades
• PDF file organized as follows:
- Dates you have known Dr. Serences
- Contexts in which you have interacted with Dr. Serences (e.g., class, 199, lab volunteer, other)
- Accomplishments while working with Dr. Serences (e.g., tasks performed in lab, studies conducted, methods used, number of subjects tested, publications, posters, presentations at conferences, presentations in lab meetings, administrative tasks, and any other relevant information. List classes taken with Dr. Serences, and classes taken relevant to graduate program.
- List schools & programs to which you will apply, with due dates for each, noting if you are applying to only one type of program (e.g., psychology Ph.D.) or multiple types (e.g., Psychology, law, medicine, clinical psychology). Organize the list of schools according to program type. Organize schools also by type of letter: mail, email, or web-based.
(3) When you are ready to apply, send all electronic reference letter requests on the SAME DAY if possible. This will reduce the chance that a letter is overlooked. All electronic requests should be made between Nov. 15 and Nov. 30. If you need more time, please begin the process earlier. Exceptions will only be made if deadlines are before Nov.15 or if there are other unusual circumstances which require a different date. Requests for letters after Nov.15 should nonetheless be made within the November timeframe.
(4) for paper letters, place an envelope in Dr. Serences' mailbox (5th Floor McGill Hall in the Mailroom) which includes a paper list of all schools that require paper letters, their due dates, and a set of addressed and stamped envelopes, paper-clipped to evaluation forms.
PH.D. STUDENTSPlease use the guidelines provided above when applying for jobs. Application deadlines tend to vary significantly from school to school. Please plan your application strategy in advance to take account of this, both to optimize your use of time, and the time of your letter writers. For example, if you have deadlines in September, some in October, and others in December, try to schedule two personal deadlines, submitting the Sept and Oct applications together, and Dec and later applications together. Letter writers often write dozens, or even hundreds, of letters in a single season, and so a slow trickle of email invitations results in either constant web activity uploading letters, filling out forms, etc., or risks the loss of emails and invitations in a sea of similar invitations, which often get clustered together in threads.
STUDENTS WITHOUT LAB EXPERIENCEDr. Serences very strongly discourages students from requesting a letter if they have not worked in his lab (e.g., students from large lecture classes). This type of letter is not very useful to applicants, since it is not very informative to schools, and will result in a relatively weak application. It is very difficult to get into a good graduate program without extensive lab experience. If you have not acquired any experience but want to do a graduate program in psychology, it is recommended that you take a year off of school to gain experience either in volunteer settings or in labs. This is as important as grades and GRE scores.
Dr. Serences will nonetheless consider writing letters for some such students, since many students cannot acquire lab experience at UCSD for reasons beyond their control. Students should understand that these letters will only express what Dr. Serences knows with certainty about the student - e.g., their grade in his class, their comments & questions, their writing (if applicable), and first impressions regarding their motivation and suitability for graduate school. Dr. Serences cannot meet one-on-one with all such students to discuss their letters. Students who plan to request letters should meet with Dr. Serences during office hours when they take his classes in order to establish a relationship.