DEAR HARRIETTE: I am applying to a program and need a recommendation from a professor. I emailed one of my favorite professors, asking for a recommendation and letting her know the deadline was in two weeks. She graciously agreed and said that since she was busy, I should write the recommendation and give it to her to revise and send.
I have a few questions concerning this. First, is two weeks' notice not enough? How far in advance should recommendations be requested? Second, is it normal for a professor to ask the student to write the recommendation? I am sort of uncomfortable with writing a recommendation for myself and then having her revise it. I don't want to toot my own horn, nor do I want her to think I'm raving about myself. What should I do in this predicament? -- Uncomfortable, New York
DEAR UNCOMFORTABLE: I understand that you would prefer your professor to write the recommendation on your behalf. However, it is not unusual that she asked for help in this effort. In addition to being busy, the professor may not remember key highlights of your time together that you might think were valuable. Sometimes professors (or former employers) will ask to be reminded of important moments or projects that should be included in a recommendation. In this case, she has requested a complete document that can be edited. I say, go for it.
Writing about your experience in that class will help you recall and focus on specific instances of strength and leadership. Being able to speak about your educational career is essential to your growth, especially when you are applying to a program that can further your development.
When asking for references, it's always good to give as much notice as possible. Two weeks is acceptable. I recommend following up with the person to remind him or her as the deadline gets closer.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My close friend, who has had the same boyfriend for three years, just told me that she made out with a guy she worked with over the summer. Apparently, the guy she made out with also has a girlfriend and is moving in with her.
My friend told me that whatever they had during the summer stopped because of the distance and because they both had other relationships, but they still text all the time. She says that since she didn't have sex with the guy, it isn't a big deal and her boyfriend doesn't need to know.
I'm concerned about the consequences that will result from her actions. She still has feelings for the guy, but she says she loves her boyfriend and could not break up with him. What do I say to lead her in the right direction? -- Worried Friend, Syracuse, N.Y.
DEAR WORRIED FRIEND: If she asks for advice, tell your friend that she needs to reconcile her heart. If she wants to be with her boyfriend, she needs to close the door on the other guy and get focused. If she wants to stay connected to the other guy, she needs to sort out her feelings and come clean with her boyfriend. Then stay out of it. This is not your business.