I still remember the day a mentor—one that I deeply admired and respected—told me to draft my own letter of recommendation (LOR). To say that I was aghast at their request would be a gross understatement. Throughout my education, the imperative of abiding by the honor code had been repeatedly emphasized. How could I reconcile composing my own LOR with my desire for academic integrity and compliance with the honor code?

As a first-generation student, my training was characterized with many instances of such panic: a lack of familiarity with the implicit norms—also known as the hidden curriculum—not only made it more challenging to navigate academia, but also exacerbated my imposter syndrome. Thus, I have been committed to exposing the hidden curriculum to make academia more relatable and accessible in a twofold approach.

First, I endeavor to convert these tacit norms and rules into explicit knowledge by curating content, coupled with meaningful examples and/or actionable advice when possible. For instance, when I discuss application fee waivers, I also share an example email draft of how to request one. Circling back to my opening scenario, I still find the expectation that students or trainees draft their own LORs deeply unsettling. Consequently, I drafted an LOR worksheet that I ask folks to fill out so I can have the information to write a strong, compelling letter.

Second, I endeavor to promote belonging in academia by being transparent and vulnerable. As such, I frequently share rejections or “raw confessions” on Twitter, despite concerns that they may be perceived as “unprofessional.”

Only by dismantling the gatekeeping mechanisms produced by the “hidden curriculum” can a more inclusive environment and level playing field for all individuals, regardless of their background, be curated in academia. Hence, I am composing a series of Edge for Scholars posts dedicated to hidden curriculum-related topics, outlined below, which is informed by this two-pronged approach:

  • Reading Recommendations
  • Navigating Barriers, Setbacks, and Difficult Conversations
  • Grant-writing
    • How to Find Funding Opportunities
    • How to Plan and Coordinate Proposal Writing
    • Grant-writing Resources

If you have any other suggestions for blog post topics, feel free to contact me with your ideas!

Want to live on the Edge?


Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Saving subscription status...


You May Also Like