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Is it appropriate to give digital gift cards as a token of thanks for recommendation writers?


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I have three professors who wrote letters of recommendation for me (both for initial acceptance and for funding). Important info here is that I graduated in 2016 and have since moved away from the city of my undergrad institution, but will most likely be moving back and going there for grad school. The first, Dr. A, I was very close to during my undergrad. She was both my adviser and the professor for two of my classes. She is still working there. The second and third, Dr. B and Dr. C, I had for two classes each but only occasionally talked to them in office hours and such -- not nearly as close with them, PLUS they have both since moved to different universities on the other side of the country. 

SO my questions are, A. is it appropriate to give them gifts to thank them for writing very strong letters for me, B. especially since I cannot physically give B and C a gift, would it be appropriate to send them digital Amazon gift cards, and C. if so, how much is an appropriate amount?

 

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4 hours ago, AB121212 said:

SO my questions are, A. is it appropriate to give them gifts to thank them for writing very strong letters for me, B. especially since I cannot physically give B and C a gift, would it be appropriate to send them digital Amazon gift cards, and C. if so, how much is an appropriate amount?

A. Yes, it is appropriate to send gifts. It is not necessary though. If you choose to send a gift, I would wait until everything is completely finished and you send the gifts along with a nice note thanking them and describing where you have decided to attend and what you will be doing there. Usually, the gift should be something that is meaningful for your relationship with that person. For example, in the past, I knew one of my advisors really liked tea, so I gave him a box gift set of nice teas for him to try. For my postdoc job letter writers, I ended up with a job in my home area (which was what I really wanted) so when I flew there in advance of moving in order to secure an apartment lease, I also bought some local food from my home area to bring back as gifts.

B. No, I do not think digital gift cards are an appropriate gift though. I think money is also inappropriate and gift cards are basically that. I think if you want to send B and C a gift, you should FedEx or USPS parcel mail it to them. However, as I said above, some relationships make more sense to send a gift than others. In your case, I think it makes sense to give something meaningful to your advisor (Dr. A) but a nice thank you note mailed to Dr. B and Dr. C is sufficient. If you were able to physically give Dr. B or Dr. C a gift, then something small but nice like a box of chocolates would be okay, but that's probably not worth mailing to them.

C. For people I had close relationships (i.e. my PhD advisors) with, I spend about $50 on their gifts. But this is not really a gift for writing a letter, it's more like a thank you for spending the last 2-5 years mentoring me and working with me. As an undergrad, I think I spent around $25 for my advisor and for people who just wrote letters, a thank you note or a small box of nice chocolates (around $10) was the standard. After my PhD, since I was actually moving onto a postdoc with actual income, I gave $20-$25 gifts for letter writers who weren't my advisor/on my committee.

Note: I just provided the $$ amounts here because people often shy away from mentioning concrete numbers so I thought the raw data would help. This is by no means a standard amount and people should do what they can afford or feel comfortable. At almost all stages of your career though, this will be awkward because you're almost always gifting to someone much more established in their career than you and to be frank, likely earn way more than you. So the real "value" in the gift is not the amount but the meaningfulness of the item to you and the recipient. 

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3 hours ago, AB121212 said:

SO my questions are, A. is it appropriate to give them gifts to thank them for writing very strong letters for me, B. especially since I cannot physically give B and C a gift, would it be appropriate to send them digital Amazon gift cards, and C. if so, how much is an appropriate amount?

 

A. No.
B. n/a
C. n/a

Write a nice handwritten thank you note and mail it their respective campus addresses.

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Both times I've applied to grad programs, I've thanked my letter writers with a nice handwritten card and I've baked something for them. It was my way of doing something a *little* extra for them, but without the complicated monetary aspect. All three of my letter writers this time around love either my handmade raviolis or biscotti, so they got packages of either one. 

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I think it's appropriate as well. I think I gave them chocolates after undergrad and thanked them in person. This time around, I mailed my references a handwritten thank you with a small gift of reusable food wraps, since it's less feasible to see them during work hours due to my job. 

Amazon gift cards sent via email might be a little impersonal. If anything, a hand written card thru the mail is a nice gesture, and a small (~$10) gift with the card would optional depending how much you're inclined to. Just a personal opinion, but I think it's better to mail the thank yous now, even if you haven't heard back from programs first, to show that you appreciated the time and effort they put into supporting you no matter the outcome. 

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As someone who writes rec letters for students all the time, I never expect to receive a gift. All I really want are updates on the applications and a nice thank you note. Seriously, send a heartfelt card/letter, something I can refer to on a rough day. I don't want a digital gift card or anything else that costs money because I know finances are limited for applicants.

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I gave all of my "recommenders" gift cards to something meaningful. One was my boss and the other two were old professors of mine. I got them gift cards to places they usually go to (theater, etc.) and they were extremely appreciative and happy. I feel like a lot of professors do not get acknowledgement for helping students. I would encourage you to do something, but if you could give them the gift in person, that would probably be more appropriate.

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This may sound a little cheesy but I’m giving my letter writers stickers from redbubble. The stickers are just funny quotes, pictures of books, and thank yous. I’m hoping that they will stick it some place and remember me forever. It’s personal with a bit of sentiment. If you know your letter writers well enough try gifts like this or something else that’s specific to the relationship 

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