If you need a recommendation or referral for study abroad, graduate school, or for a non-academic job, I am happy to assist you. However, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 binds my hands in certain respects to your educational record and prohibits me from divulging specific personal information without your written consent. Therefore, in order to fulfill your request for a recommendation I need a signed consent form from you with the following information:

  1. Specify the records to be released, e.g. your classroom performance
  2. Identify the party or class of parties to whom the records should be released, e.g. graduate school, funding entity, potential employers
  3. Indicate the reason for the release, e.g. scholarship or job application application

In addition to this authorization to discuss your person, I also require

  1. at least a week notice before the deadline;
  2. the essay or statement that you are submitting to the institution or agency with your application or at least a description of what you are applying for and why you want to participate in or apply for it;
  3. the name and title of the person(s) or committee to whom I am writing (unless I am merely filling in a form);
  4. an addressed and stamped envelope for your hard-copy recommendation, if you give me a form or need an actual letter (Most institutions now ask references to complete an online form, in which case an envelope is unneccesary.);
  5. a copy of your CV (curriculum vitae) or résumé – take a look at mine, if this is new to you;
  6. a list of courses that you have taken with me (including the title of any papers or presentations);
  7. any German-related extra-curricular activities in which you have participated (German Club, Language Day, International Film Series, etc.) and give examples of your contribution to or initiative within those organizations.

Please know that I request this information, because it helps me personalize your letter and tailor it to your application. The more you help me, the more I can help you. Otherwise, the letter will be filled with common formulations, and frankly, meaningless platitudes, which selection committees will certainly recognize. In other words: if you can’t sell yourself to me, I can’t sell you to someone else.