Letter of Recommendation FAQ

Will you write a letter of recommendation for me?

  • For Divinity Students: I am usually willing to write letters for any students who have worked hard in my courses. Before you ask me to write a letter, however, do bear in mind that your strongest letters of recommendation will come from a professor with whom you have taken more than one course because he or she will be better able to comment on your work and will have had a longer relationship with you as a teacher. Secondly, it is generally best to request letters from professors in whose courses you have done well. So, if you have earned a B or higher and have taken more than one course with me I will probably be able to write a letter for you.
  • For Graduate Department of Religions Students: If you have done substantial work in at least one seminar or reading course with me I am usually willing to write a letter for you. Please consult with me on a case-by-case basis.

How should I request a letter of recommendation from you?

  • In order to help me write a strong letter on your behalf and send it on time, I need to you to do ALL of the items on the checklist below.  Exceptions can sometimes be made to this list, but only rarely.


  • Deadline: Please request your letter by sending me an e-mail one month before the date on which you need the letter mailed or submitted online. Last minute letters are sometimes possible but to do your letter well I really need one month’s notice.
  • E-mail request: In your e-mail, please answer the following questions (cut and paste this list with answers into your e-mail):
    1. When do you want me to mail the letter?
    2. What address/e-mail/webform do I send my letter to? Please include the actual mailing address even if I am sending an e-mail as I would like to include the mailing address in the header your letter.
    3. What is the letter for (a job, an internship, a scholarship, a grad. school application, etc.)? Please include a link to the job description, program, religious organization or company if possible.
    4. What are your future plans if your application is successful (i.e. teach, full-time ministry, pursue a Ph.D., etc.)?
    5. What instructions are needed for the letter (is there a form to fill out, a list of criteria the letter should discuss?).
    6. What courses (topic and year) did you take with me and what topics did you write papers on? Have you collaborated on any research with me?
    7. If you are applying for further graduate study, please let me know the following:
      • What are your planned area of study and your particular interests/goals?
      • Who are the faculty with whom you plan to study?
      • What courses (title, number, semester, year) have you taken that are related to your application?
      • What research projects, seminar papers, other research have you done relevant to this application?
      • What language work have you done?
    8. What else should I know about your application? (You may find it useful to consult this site at the University of Wisconsin on applying to graduate programs).
    9. Attachments: With your e-mail please send me copies of the following:
      • Academic Record Release Form (FERPA Authorization): Due to federal privacy law, I cannot write a letter of recommendation for you unless I have a hand-signed paper copy of this form from you giving me permission to disclose your academic record. I also will not write the letter without your agreement to waive your right to see the recommendation or other related materials. Please send me this as soon as you request the letter.
      • A copy of your Resumé or C.V.
      • A copy of any application essays, statement of purpose, or cover letter you may be sending with your application (a draft is fine if these are not finished yet, but do send me the final versions when they are ready).
      • An unofficial copy of your transcript.
      • A copy of any writing sample you plan to submit with your application.
      • A copy of any papers or relevant assignments which you wrote for me.
  • Note: If you are requesting multiple letters, please begin your e-mail with a list of all of the letters requested and try to combine the information for all of the letters into a single e-mail to me.


  • Reminder e-mails: Please send me two reminder e-mails, at one week before the mailing date and one day before the mailing date.
  • Keep in touch!: I always want to hear how things turn out, so please keep me posted on your application process as you hear back (even if its bad news).

Contact Information:

  • If you need to enter my information into an online recommendation system, please use the following:
    David A. Michelson
    Assistant Professor of the History of Christianity
    Vanderbilt University
    411 21st Avenue South
    Nashville, TN 37240
    Phone: (615) 343-3990
    Fax: (615) 343-5449

Best wishes on your applications!