Recommendation Letters

 

LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION

When appropriate, Dr. Tillman writes letters of recommendation for past members of her lab, including undergraduate research assistants and 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.

Dr. Tillman will also write letters for students who attend her undergraduate classes. For details, see below.

INSTRUCTIONS

Below are instructions for requesting your letter(s). Dr. Tillman strongly encourages you to take similar steps when soliciting letters from other faculty: They will notice, and will appreciate the extra care you have taken.

(1) SEND EMAIL REQUESTS TO ktillman@utexas.edu, AND A COPY to tillmanletter@gmail.com. Use the tillmanletter address for all webforms, so that electronic requests made by graduate schools are sent to this email, rather than to Dr. Tillman's primary email address. This will guarantee that Dr. Tillman does not miss any of the email requests.

(2) In your first email to Dr. Tillman requesting a letter, include the following:

• PDF of resume or CV

• PDF of grades

• PDF file organized as follows:

—Dates you have known Dr. Tillman

— Contexts you have interacted with Dr. Tillman (e.g., PSY357, 333N, lab volunteer, other)

—Accomplishments while working with Dr. Tillman (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. Tillman, and classes taken relevant to the 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 the type of letter required: mail, email, or web-based.

Do not send an email requesting a letter before all of these things are available and included!

(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 for programs with due dates after that time. 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. Tillman’s mailbox (4th Floor Mailroom in SEA) 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.

(5) The university now requires that students include the following passage in their letter requests, to grant faculty the right to disclose your personal academic information in the letters they write about you. Please include this passage in your email to Dr. Tillman requesting your letter:

"I consent to the release of personal and educational information about me in the letter of recommendation that I have requested from you. This authorization allows you to release all information about me, within the University’s possession, to the educational institutions or centralized application processing services I've listed in the attached documents. This authorization shall remain valid unless and until it is rescinded in writing.”

PH.D. STUDENTS

Please use the guidelines provided above when applying for jobs. Application deadlines for jobs 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 EXPERIENCE

Dr. Tillman strongly discourages students from requesting a letter if they have not worked in her lab (especially 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. Tillman will nonetheless consider writing letters for such students, since many students cannot acquire lab experience at UT for reasons beyond their control, or specifically require letter from professors whose classes they have taken. Students should understand that these letters will only express what Dr. Tillman knows with certainty about the student, e.g., their grade in his class, their comments & questions, their writing (if applicable), their overall academic & work history as conveyed by a resume or CV, and first impressions regarding their motivation and suitability for graduate school. Students who plan to request letters should meet with Dr. Tillman during office hours when they take her classes in order to establish a relationship.