LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION
When appropriate, Dr. Barner writes letters of recommendation for past members of his lab, including undergraduate research assistants, 199 students, and honors 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. Barner will also write letters for students who attend his undergraduate classes. For details, see below.
Below are instructions for requesting your letter(s). Dr. Barner strongly encourages you to take similar steps when soliciting letters from other faculty: They will notice, and appreciate the extra care you have taken.
(1) SEND EMAIL REQUESTS TO firstname.lastname@example.org, AND A COPY to email@example.com. Use the barnerletter address for all webforms, so that electronic requests made by graduate schools are sent to this email, rather than to Dr. Barner's primary email address. This will guarantee that Dr. Barner does not miss any of the email requests.
(2) In your first email to Dr. Barner requesting a letter, include the following:
• PDF of resume or CV
• PDF of grades
• PDF file organized as follows:
- Dates you have known Dr. Barner
- Contexts you have interacted with Dr. Barner (e.g., class, 199, lab volunteer, other)
- Accomplishments while working with Dr. Barner (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. Barner, and classes taken relevant to 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 type of letter: 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. 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. Barner's mailbox (5th Floor McGill Hall in the Mailroom) 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.
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. Barner very strongly discourages students from requesting a letter if they have not worked in his lab (e.g., 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. Barner will nonetheless consider writing letters for such students, since many students cannot acquire lab experience at UCSD for reasons beyond their control. Students should understand that these letters will only express what Dr. Barner 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, and first impressions regarding their motivation and suitability for graduate school. Dr. Barner cannot meet one-on-one with such students to discuss their letters. This is not possible due to the many students who request such meetings. Students who plan to request letters should meet with Dr. Barner during office hours when they take his classes in order to establish a relationship.