Recommendation Letter Instructions

As a courtesy, you should ask me for a letter of recommendation at least three weeks before you need it. If currently in my course, inform me AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. I can then keep better track of our discussions and the quality of your work, noting details useful to include in a recommendation letter.

For a Ph.D., I am happy to provide a letter of recommendation to any student who has passed a course with me with a grade of A- or better. Lower grades do not rule out a letter, but they should cause you to consider carefully whether I am in a position to make the best assessment of your academic potential. I’m happy to write letters for employment, law school, medical school, and Master’s programs for students with a B or above in my courses.

Your choice of letter writes should not be taken lightly. The best letters come from people who know your work, who are familiar with your capabilities, and who know you well enough to judge your personal qualities. Repeated interaction is the only way to develop knowledge of this depth. Choose letter writers with whom you have taken multiple courses, visited regularly during office hours, and discussed your future plans with. The ideal would be to write a research paper with their guidance. All of this takes time, meaning you should think about developing a relationship with potential writers. In my view, the sophomore year is not too early. Note, other professors might not think the same.

When letters from senior faculty will carry the most weight, rely on Professors or Associate Professors rather than Assistant Professors. (I am currently an Assistant Professor of Economics.) Applications to graduate school for economics often hinge on the good letters of reference (and test scores). Letters from professors who are well-known carry more weight. Admissions are given to students based on a recommendation of a letter writer putting their hard earned reputation on the line. Being young, I do not yet have that reputational capital to expend. However, I do know people in my own field. So, depending on your choice of schools, my letter might be particularly well-placed. Discuss your choice of schools with me to determine if I know someone their, or someone else in the department has a connection.

My letters of recommendation are frank summaries of what I know about you, although I of course try to emphasize the positive and make a case for you. (If I cannot do this, I will suggest that it is best to approach other faculty.) In order to help me shape my case, I require three items, which I prefer to receive by email.

  1. A complete transcript of your coursework and grades

  2. A vita or resume, preferably the former.

  3. A statement of your understanding of the nature of the position or program to which you are applying and your qualifications for it. What I usually want is a copy of your cover letter or your letter of intent. (If you are applying for graduate study, your statement of purpose, or whatever equivalent is requested by the schools you apply for, should be a clear statement of your core interests, your ultimate goals, and your perception of how the program you are applying to matches your interests and helps you achieve your goals. It can help to elaborate on how you have come to have the interests and goals that you have, so that these do not appear transient.)

  4. (FOR EMPLOYMENT) A copy of the job listing and any particular skills/qualities you would like me to emphasize in the letter.

    In addition, for each letter of recommendation, you should also provide me with an appropriately prepared (standard letter size) envelope along with a hard copy of any forms I must prepare for this institution. (Usually there is a single page form requesting certain information from me, the recommender.) The envelope must clearly indicate which institution the letter is for. I will seal the envelope and sign across the flap. If I am to mail the letter, make sure the envelope is appropriately addressed and stamped. Please be sure to type the following information on the form as requested:

    Recommender: Gregory Niemesh
    Position: Assistant Professor of Economics
    Organization: Miami University, Farmer School of Business
    Address: 800 E. High Street, Oxford OH 45056
    Phone: (513) 529-2150