I approach writing a recommendation letter very seriously. I feel a great responsibility to reflect on each student carefully in order to extract every single strength I can identify to highlight in my letter. I spend a significant amount of time crafting a strong, personalized, and specific recommendation. And if I feel that I cannot devote this quality of energy into a students’ letter because I am not confident that they are indeed recommendable, I am comfortable telling that student I cannot write a letter for them. Take home message: I feel that you are a worthy candidate and as such, I have written you a strong letter.
Consequentially, the great amount of care and devotion I give to each recommendation also creates a deep personal connection to and sense of identity with the idea of “my word is my bond.” It is vitally important to me that when I put my word on the line to better another’s interests, I am confident that my message is delivered authentically in the way I choose. I am putting my own reputation at stake when I recommend a student, because I am being entrusted to vouch for a student’s efforts in a future position over which I have no actual input or control. I am able to ensure my own integrity by protecting my word and sending letters directly to admissions/hiring committees, and not going through a third party such as the student, who by default has conflicted interests regarding the recommendation. Take home message: If we both agree that I should write a recommendation letter for you, we also trust each other, without oversight, that (1) I will write a strong letter to the best of my abilities, and (2) if you are accepted to the position, you will perform your duties to the best of your abilities.
That being said, I do sincerely understand your desire to have a copy of my recommendation letter. It eases the responsibility on both of us to maintain over time the type of connection necessary to access and elicit support for your endeavors in the near future. However, if you can trust me to step up to the plate whenever you need it and be willing to keep in touch via email, phone, social media, or in person, you will find that sustaining a closer relationship with your recommender over a long period of time is priceless. Mutual respect and trust will develop naturally over time, and the more care and attention you give to relationships with faculty members, employers, mentors, etc., the more it will enable you to foster a wealth of staunch support and commitment to advocate for you in return. Take home message: You can count on me! Please stay in touch, and I will follow through if you need my support in the future.
Kyla, you may still have reservations about not being able to read my recommendation letter before it is seen by the Maryland Sea Grant, and I empathize with your concern. I would completely understand if you would prefer that I not write a recommendation letter for you, and I would certainly hold no ill will or prejudice against writing a letter for you in the future. Please let me know where you stand regarding whether you would still want me to submit a letter without the possibility of you reviewing it beforehand.