Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Grad School Recommendations

Here is a guest post from NYU economist David Backus.

I should probably get over this, but I just went through something like the following twenty times:  
* Click on link in email.
* If you failed to log out the previous time, you need to close your browser and start again.
* Login.
* Set new pw:  type old pw, new pw twice.
* Check to agree to terms and conditions.
* Enter contact information, including email address which, of course, they know, because they sent you an email.
* Complete drop-down menu of questions.
* Upload letter.
* Enter name and date — which, of course, they know.
* Submit.  
* Are you sure?  
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to write letters for my students.  But is this the best we can do?  
As faculty, we’re not often asked about the software system used by our admissions offices, they’re imposed on us by our staff.  But David Romer has a great idea for fighting back.  His letters include the following:   
I have a firm policy of never providing numerical ratings or filling in boxes on letters of recommendation for graduate study.  When possible, I simply leave the boxes blank. If on-line forms do not allow questions to be skipped, I check “Not Applicable” (or equivalent, such as “Insufficient Information to Judge”) in all cases.  If I am forced to provide ratings, I provide the highest possible one in all cases.  These are blanket policies; thus my answers provide no information about the candidate.  
Why don’t we all do the same?  It won’t change anything, but we’ll have a little fun as we click through the radio buttons.