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So You'd Like a Recommendation?

Professors are often asked by current or former students to write letters of recommendation for them. Among the myriad of reasons for a letter of recommendation, the primary reasons involve references for grants/scholarships, internships/assistantships, employment, or for graduate school admissions. Typically, the professor should know the student well enough to comment not only on the student’s academic performance, but on their ability to pay close attention to detail, their command of broader theoretical perspective (the “big picture”), work ethic, record of volunteer work, engagement in activities, reliability and responsibility, maturity, ability to work with others, and their personal character.


As such, I usually write letters for those students who have worked with me either as lab assistants or graduate researchers. Rare exceptions are sometimes made for students with whom I have had contact through a graduate seminar, teaching assistantship or an undergraduate honors class. If you would like me to write a letter for you, please contact me as early as you can before the deadline. Upon getting a message affirming that I am willing to write a letter, please do the following:


  1. At least one month before the deadline, send me (a) transcripts (unofficial okay), (b) a statement of purpose (preferably for the organization(s) for which you are applying, (c) URL links to information on the program(s); and (d) an updated resume or curriculum vita.
  2. Look into the option that letters of reference be uploaded electronically to a secure site, or can be delivered via email direct from me. If these options are not possible, please send me addressed and stamped envelopes for the organizations to which you are applying. Alternatively, you can drop them in my faculty mailbox on the 2nd floor of the Psychology Building.
  3. I typically write letters in situations with which the student has waived access to the letter. This means I will send the letter directly myself, or will hand the letter to you in a sealed envelope with my signature over the seal. Students should not expect to see the content of the letter, as knowing this compromises its integrity. But don’t worry, if I felt there was a reason to not be positive, I would not have agreed to take the time to write the letter.
  4. You should send reminders of the deadline one month, two weeks, one week, and two days before the deadline or until you hear from me explicitly saying that the letter or letters have been sent.


I am happy to fulfill any obligation to those students who have demonstrated potential, have worked hard, and who have taken the time to let me get to know them. Because I consider myself a scientist above all, I have always taken my role of mentor very seriously, and consider it a crucial part of the scientific enterprise. Since early in my graduate school career, I have worked with and mentored dozens of students from various universities in the U.S. and in Costa Rica, and have kept in contact with more than a few.  I have found the experience very rewarding, and consider it an honor to have worked with such talented, hard-working young men and women, and I am very gratified to see so many former students thriving in academic graduate programs, medical school, and law programs, as well as in other professional pursuits.


I wish you all the best,



Carlos David Navarrete, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Department of Psychology

Michigan State University

247 Psychology Building

East Lansing, MI 48824



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