Thank-you presents for grad-school recommendations?
May 2, 2008 7:03 PM   Subscribe

Is it appropriate to send some sort of thank-you gift to people who have served as references? I'm asking both as a general practice as well as in a specific instance - in this case, people went out of their way to write me recommendation letters for grad school. What is the appopriat way to thank them?
posted by andrewmarc to Human Relations (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Unless the people really went out of their way for these letters, I think a thank you note is enough. My experience: I popped a thank you note in the university mailboxes of the profs who wrote my recommendations. When I got into the school I never thought I'd get into and found out that one of my profs had made a phone call to this school on my behalf, I got her a big gift basket full of jams and teas and cookies.
posted by meerkatty at 7:15 PM on May 2, 2008

I think a thank you note is appropriate, but not an actual gift. If you need to use them again, you want to avoid the appearance of having bought their favorable opinion. Like the previous poster mentioned, I would wait until your desired result such as acceptance in a school or a job offer before I gave a gift.

A handwritten thank you note of appreciation is a great thing to receive.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:40 PM on May 2, 2008

I would definitely drop a line -- both to say Thank You for the effort, and to let them know that you were accepted. Whenever I've done something like that, people have remarked how rare it is just to get a card/letter of appreciation. As far as a bigger gift, I would say that depends on your personal relationship with the person, as well as how much they did for you: a regular professor writing a letter = thank you note; a years-long mentor doing extra work to help you out = small personal gift (no one says 'no' to jams and cookies!).
posted by bah213 at 7:55 PM on May 2, 2008

I sent a little personalized thank you card letting them know the results of my application. I know at least one of the recipients was very impressed and happy to receive one, which is a good enough reason to do so.
posted by synecdoche at 8:16 PM on May 2, 2008


Was in a similar situation myself; I sent thank-you letters with updates on all my graduate school endeavors soon as I found out. Professors never replied, but I think it was exactly what they'd expected, and anything else (since I didn't know them terribly well) would probably come across as a bribe.
posted by BenzeneChile at 9:04 PM on May 2, 2008

Yes, just a thank you. This professor, at least, would be very uncomfortable receiving a gift for writing a letter of rec. It's part of my job, after all.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:50 AM on May 3, 2008

When I've written letters, a thank you note is nice but not expected -- letters are just part of the job. (If the letter writer is not an academic, then the thank you note is probably mandatory rather than optional, because writing letters is an extra thing they are taking on, over and above their routine work.) I really, really dislike it when students give gifts -- they are already paying lots of tuition, and I am just doing my job, for which I am being paid. For me, the gifts skirt too close to an ethical line, where if it becomes a normal and expected thing, then will only students who can afford to give gifts receive letters of reference? So I'd prefer no gifts, and just a basic "thank you" which can be a card, an email, or stopping me in the hall.

What I really like, but surprisingly few students do, is to get an email or a card saying "I was admitted to School X / got the scholarship / Peace Corps is sending me to Mali / whatever." Getting a note like that makes my whole week, because it lets me feel like I had some small part to play in someone doing something really neat. Honestly, I think a follow-up email like that is more important than any initial thank you letter, but almost no one writes them.
posted by Forktine at 6:36 AM on May 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

This professor also prefers an update or casual mention in the hallway rather than a formal note or god forbid a present. Writing recommendations is a routine part of my work.

On the other hand, (not in answer to this question) I expect but almost never receive a thank you or acknowledgment when I go out of my way to e-mail a student with information about something of interest to them.
posted by vincele at 2:09 PM on May 3, 2008

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