What do I send my grad school recommenders as a thank you?
December 3, 2012 2:34 PM   Subscribe

What do I send my grad school recommenders as a thank you?

Of course, I am sending a nice, hand-written thank you card. But what else should I send them? I was thinking a small gift of about $10-15, but a Starbucks gift card seems too impersonal.

I'm looking for suggestions, both general and specific, about what I can get these fabulous people who recommended me, and what you got the people who wrote your recommendations.

Bonus: I have read in some places that people wait until they've heard back from schools to send their thank yous. This strikes me as wildly inappropriate, as that's not for another three-and-change months. Regardless, is it customary?

(I am applying for an MPH, if that makes a difference, so think more professional degree than academic.)

Details on these people I need to buy things:
Recommender 1: Male, youngish (30s), works in the government as well as teaching, and has a small family. I don't know if he drinks (alcohol or coffee) but would like to get him something neat. I rarely see him in person so will have to mail, over state lines if that matters.

Recommender 2: Woman with a family, early 30s, Pakistani, and doesn't drink. She's traveling now so I have some time before we see each other.

Recommender 3: Woman, allergic to almost everything edible or with leaves. Wrote a really great last-minute recommendation for me. I work with her closely and would like to give her something thoughtful. Likes cats.

Recommender 4: My sort-of boss and mentor. She told me not to buy her anything as "[she knows] how much money I make", but I want to try and give (make?) her something small and nice. I am close to her daughters, aged 7 and 4. They live across the country, but I will see her in person next week.
posted by quadrilaterals to Human Relations (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Previously and previouslier. The general consensus: no gifts, just a thank you note.
posted by zsazsa at 2:41 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

No gifts for recommendation letters. A thank you note is nice. Keeping in touch with your recommenders is even nicer.
posted by .kobayashi. at 2:45 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Speaking as someone who provides recommendation letters, let me nth the consensus. Here's the problem with gifts: they look like bribes. Also, that's not why these people wrote your recommendation letters and it feels a little insulting to suggest otherwise with a gift.

A personal gift to a friend is a different thing but it seems as if only Number 4 falls into that box and she specifically told you no. If you are baking anyway maybe Xmas cookies for the kids would be OK. That's it, though.
posted by bearwife at 2:46 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Agree with no gifts but given how you feel, I would send a thank you note now and then a follow-up letter after you have gotten accepted and decided where to go. The second note would be unexpected and show your high level of appreciation better than a little gift.
posted by metahawk at 2:48 PM on December 3, 2012

Definitely not something impersonal and linked to money. If you want to give something on top of a card, give homemade baked goods or possibly a trinket related to your specific focus (for example, I work heavily with plants so I've gifted small, blooming plants I've grown to recommenders).
posted by vegartanipla at 2:48 PM on December 3, 2012

Response by poster: Ahh! I had no idea that this could be perceived negatively. I will stick to handwritten thank you notes, baked goods as appropriate, and a follow-up note with some outcomes. Thank you!
posted by quadrilaterals at 2:59 PM on December 3, 2012

Just as a different voice - I've often received small thank-you gifts from people I've written letters for. It's generally a small gift card, or something for my office. However, I work at a super small liberal arts college, which can be more of a family atmosphere. I still wouldn't expect anything, and would be delighted with a card.
posted by bizzyb at 5:20 PM on December 3, 2012

High end liquor or wine (unless they don't drink).
posted by NYC-BB at 6:14 PM on December 3, 2012

I made my recommenders these fleur de sel caramels and wrote them thank you notes on pretty note cards. They were a hit! I also followed up with them after I heard back from schools. I think it's more important to do something promptly, so if you don't have enough time to make something then it's better to just write a note.
posted by apricot at 6:32 PM on December 3, 2012

I gave Godiva chocolates and a note to my three recommenders, and no one seemed put out. ::shrug::
posted by amileighs at 7:18 PM on December 3, 2012

Best answer: Just a note is fine. But do let them know how you fared. It's not uncommon for students never to tell me how things went, and I find this exasperating. I care about my students, and I want to know how they're doing with applications. Also, results from the current crop of students will affect how I advise future students.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 3:23 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

All I want to know is what the eventual result is. Did you get in anywhere? Where did you finally decide to go?

(How do things go down the line? Do you pass your comps? Do you wash out? --- this would be for professors you were close to.)

I don't need a handwritten thank you note, even (although I won't object)---writing recommendations is part of my job.
posted by leahwrenn at 10:11 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

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