Recommendation letters for graduate school are,. on the whole, a giant waste of time and energy. The vast majority of letters I write are for students about whom I have no information other than what is on their transcript other than their rank in my class, which I dutifully report, along with information about the textbook and teaching style, as well as some boilerplate about how hard the class is and how only keeners select into it.
The waste of time associated with such letters is accentuated when the application form is non-standard, so that rather than simply taking a letter that can be written, converted to PDF, and then uploaded at multiple schools, the school being applied to wants individualized responses to its own particular questions, and then to top it all off, designs the software so that you cannot simply cut and paste your pre-written letter, or bits of it, into the response areas.
The worst offender I have run into this year is Cornell's MBA program. For their troubles, or rather for the troubles they just caused me, they got a little lecture in one of their response areas about negative externalities and wasting people's time.
Who was my favorite student this term?
4 months ago