So it seems like that time of the year where everyone is beginning to look towards the future and apply to graduate school, medical school, internships, etc. Recently I have had a couple of students who were in my recitation last semester ask if I would write a letter of recommendation for them.
While I’m flattered that they asked me, my first thought is that they should consider asking a lead instructor of faculty member instead. I am just a lowly TA at the bottom of the academic totem pole. When the both of them contacted me, they said that they asked me over the faculty for the course because I interacted with them more.
The first student, who needs this letter for medical school applications, earned a low B in the class. Looking at her exam grades, she struggled with the material, but overall did well. She was a pleasure to have in class, in fact she was a model student. She arrived on time to recitation, she was prepared for class, and she participated in class and group discussions so I agreed to write her a letter.
The second student, who needs this letter for an internship application, began the semester with a very low grade and by the end of the semester earned a C. She struggled greatly with the material for the course, but worked very hard. She frequently came to office hours, would use the textbook (a rarity for undergrads here), and always ask questions in recitation. Like the first student, she was also a model student who worked hard in class and participated. I also agreed to write her a letter.
But I can’t help but think: should I have agreed to write those letters? Am I the right person to write this LoR for their application? Would their applications be more competitive if they had asked their professors for this course instead of me? Also, these students were not my top grades in my classes, but they were great to have in recitation. So what’s more important when I am deciding whether or not to write these letters: academic performance or work ethic/personality? In this case, I agreed to write both because of how they behaved in my class.
So if I am asked to write letters what should I do?* Should I encourage them to ask faculty? If I think I should write their letter, should I look more seriously into their academic performance (grades)? Or is it ok to write letters for students who aren’t the best performers, but show good motivation and work ethic?
If you write LoR, what do you do? How do you decide whether or not to write a student a LoR?
*Assuming I have time to write one