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of online shoppers said it is important to have
reviews of products.
Letters of Recommendation
ACM supports a number of
special interest groups, or
SIGs, that you as a member
can join. SIGs provide an
opportunity for people who are
interested in a particular area
of computer science to come
together and discuss it. The
SIGs are where people tend to
hone their involvement with
There are currently 34
SIGs, ranging from SIGACT
(algorithms and computation
theory) to SIGCHI (
computer-human interaction) to
graphics). Each group
mentioned here has its own
web site for more details.
The benefits offered by each
SIG are different depending
on its members, but as a
collective they are intended to
keep people up-to-date with
technical developments in
the specific field or subfield;
provide an opportunity to
network with like-minded
colleagues; and deliver cutting-edge information, focused
resources, and forums for
As a member of SIGCHI, I
can attest to the benefits of
membership. CHI’s magazine,
interactions, helps me stay
abreast of developments in
the field, which is essential for
students working on projects
that may keep them focused
on one area.
For more information on
specific SIGs, take a look at
Asking for a letter of recommen- dation is an art. What many students don’t realize is just how much of the work falls on
their shoulders. Here are some tips for
getting that letter you need.
0. Choose wisely. The ideal letter-writer
is a professor in your field of study who
knows you and your work well, in who’s
classes you excelled, and with whom
you had meaningful interactions outside of class.
1. ask politely. If possible, make an appointment and ask the professor in
person. Do not ask via a quickly jotted,
2. ask early. It takes time to write a good
letter, and professors are busy. Ask for
the letter at least a month before the
due date. Never ask for a letter with
fewer than two weeks to go.
3. Bullet the letter yourself. The more information you provide, the better letter you will get. Write a summary of
how you and the recommender know
one another: courses you took, class
projects you’ve completed, number
of years you’ve known one another.
Other information to include are your
CV, which should include awards and
If given the choice
whether to waive or
retain your rights
to see the letter,
honor society memberships; copies of
admissions essays; relevant work experience, internships, or volunteer activities; things that make you unique.
4. make the professor’s job easy. Provide a
list of all the schools or organizations
to which you are applying. For each,
include the names of the program or
department and the position you hope
to hold (graduate student, intern, research assistant), and the application
deadline. Write the professor’s contact
information on all paper forms and
include pre-addressed, stamped envelopes, as needed.
5. Beware of spam filters. Occasionally
the email notifications from online application services get banished to the
“junk” mailbox by a spam filter. Make
sure your professor receives them.
6. waive your rights. If given the choice
whether to waive or retain your rights to
see the letter, waive! The readers of the
letter will give the letter more weight.
Plus, many letter-writers won’t write a
non-confidential letter. If you’re nervous
that the letter-writer won’t write you a
strong letter, ask someone else.
7. follow up. The absent-minded professor is more than just a cliché. Your
professor may forget to write the letter. Don’t be afraid to send a gentle reminder as the deadline nears.
8. thank your professor! Write a thank-you note. Email is fine.
9. Share the results. Did you get in? Let
your professor know if you get the job,
the internship, or the spot in graduate
school. They want to know!