Appropriate way to thank professor/employer
May 5, 2009 6:19 PM   Subscribe

How to thank professor for recommendation letter that got me a scholarship? Slightly complicated.

I got the scholarship letter today. I will be receiving the money in September.

I am currently working for the professor on campus, part-time. So, he's my boss.

I will be taking a class he is teaching next semester.

I want to do slightly better than an email/card, because getting the scholarship really means a lot to me. But I don't want him to think I am sucking up or trying too hard. Ideas?
posted by ttyn to Education (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Why not just write a thank you note, and try to give it at a time where he can spare a couple of minutes, where you can orally express your thanks.

I'd personally find it impressing if came up and thanked me, as opposed to wrote a letter or a card and handed it to me.

(but I'm not a professor.)
posted by predius at 6:27 PM on May 5, 2009

Really, an email is all that is necessary. Professors consider letter-writing to be an important part of their job, and a sincere thank-you is more than sufficient recognition.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:29 PM on May 5, 2009

Err, I'm an idiot.

"...impressing if *someone* came up..."
posted by predius at 6:34 PM on May 5, 2009

A thank you gift would be inappropriate -- it would seem a bit like a bribe after the fact.

If you think an email or card is too casual, sit down and write a proper note on nice stationery and put it in the mail.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:44 PM on May 5, 2009

Best answer: As a professor myself, an email is fine. A card is very nice. A card with a gift card for lunch near campus is shockingly nice. A box of mail order cookies delivered to the professor's home is likely to be greeted with great suspicion, but after a couple of less-well-liked undergrads survive the first few, is also appreciated. At least that has been my experience.
posted by procrastination at 6:45 PM on May 5, 2009 [5 favorites]

Seconding procrastination. I take great pleasure knowing the student got the scholarship. A card is great.
posted by effluvia at 7:06 PM on May 5, 2009

Best answer: Genuine thanks is always appreciated. You've got all the pieces of a good thank you note in your question.

Today I received a letter awarding me the xxx scholarship. The scholarship means a lot to me because I'll because I'll be able to continue my studies in the fall. I think your recommendation was a deciding factor in my receiving the scholarship. Thank you for your recommendation.

You can wordsmith it so that it's more polished, but you've got the key points.
posted by 26.2 at 7:09 PM on May 5, 2009

Best answer: I don't think you understand what a thank you note can be worth. I would rather get a thank you note from a student than just about any gift I can think of. And it's not for sentimental reasons. I mean it is nice to feel like you helped someone and to feel appreciated and all that, but what I need isn't the warm fuzzies, it's tenure. Notes/cards/emails from students telling me how great I am (with as much detail/specifics as you can think of, not just "thank you for writing this letter") go right in the tenure folder.

Seriously, if the professor is pre-tenure absolutely write a note.

I accept gifts even though they sometimes make me uncomfortable, but a note makes me look good to the people who set my raises and could be worth thousands of dollars over the course of my career.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:10 PM on May 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

I write thank you cards every year to profs who write me letters or go the extra mile for me in reading grant apps, etc. My supervisor (who wrote me a letter and has been generally fantastic) is getting a card even though I've already told her the results and thanked her in person. The card is all that's really necessary and it gives that prof something to remember and to keep -- my partner's supervisor has cards from her students tacked up in her office.
posted by pised at 7:14 PM on May 5, 2009

Nice bottle of wine's what I gave under these circumstances.
posted by Wolof at 7:30 PM on May 5, 2009

Speaking as a professor: if you're still working with the guy next semester, then stick with a thank-you note and, if you absolutely feel you must give a gift, something very inexpensive. Really, a nice card will be cool.
posted by thomas j wise at 9:00 PM on May 5, 2009

Best answer: In this day and age, a hand-written, ink & paper thank-you note or card is invariably impressive.

Slipped under the office door (I took the time to deliver it) or mailed (I took the time to stamp & post it) is better than handed over directly.

IANAPT (Professional Teacher), but I teach as a volunteer, and sincere thank-you's are touching enough, without any gift.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:23 PM on May 5, 2009

Nthing the thank you note/card. I'd add, instead of a lunch, a gift card for $5 or so to the good coffee place on/near campus. It's a small gesture but very nice.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:25 PM on May 5, 2009

Response by poster: Handwritten note it is. Thank you!
posted by ttyn at 10:47 PM on May 5, 2009

Best answer: Following up on If I only had a penguin...

Here's what I did, for two professors up for tenure who had been awesome to me: I wrote the department head. I don't know what I wrote, but it was something like....

Dear Dr. X:
I saw the flyer in the hall saying Dr. Y was being considered for tenure, and I thought you and the committee might be interested in a student's perspective on her.
I took her Intro to Blah Blah class in Fall 07. As a teacher she... (whatever she was like as a teacher)
I later joined her lab in Spring 08, and (what she was like as a PI)
She has shown me that she really cares about her students and goes the extra mile for them by (whatever).
I ask that you keep this letter confidential, because I will definitely take another class from Dr. Y if it fits into my schedule, and I do not want her or you to think I would try to influence my grade by flattering her.

The keep-this-letter-confidential part is critical -- you really do not want her to read it, if it is completely positive. Having a teacher think you are trying to brown-nose is actually worse than having her think you unappreciative. So thank her, secretly write your letter, and just know you did a nice thing in return. (And anyway, someone in the department will tell her.)
posted by Methylviolet at 11:01 PM on May 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

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