When to Make Your Requests
September—and give three weeks for them to respond.
Who to Ask
- Faculty members who can comment specifically on who you are as a person and student and have a passion for your future.
- A professor who has taught graduate classes, and can compare your potential to the abilities of previous grad students.
- An internship supervisor - especially one related to the graduate field you wish to pursue.
How to Ask
- Email your professors and request a meeting to discuss your grad school plans.
- Ask in a tactful but direct way, "Professor, could you write a strong recommendation letter for grad school?"
- Try to determine from their response if they will give you lukewarm or enthusiastic support.
What Information to Supply
- Transcript copy
- Statement of Purpose
- Any large work you did in that class
- Cover sheet highlighting:
- Which courses you took from the faculty member and when
- The grades you received in each class
- Your overall GPA
- Your GPA in your major field?
- Did you take a minor, and if so, how will it enhance your graduate studies?
- A list of things you want the faculty member to be sure to address
- A labeled file for each graduate school to which you will be applying, including:
- The graduate school’s form for the faculty to evaluate your potential for success in grad school. Fill out the portion that pertains to you.
- Where they are to send the letter (cite individual names, titles, if you can)
- The deadline date
- A stamped, addressed envelope for each grad school to which you are applying.
- Your telephone number and email address, in case the faculty member needs further information.
- A bulleted list of the specific things you'd like each letter writer to address
- Request each writer write something different that gives the breadth of who you are.
- Try to "aim" your letter writers specifically toward the kind of graduate program you're seeking.
- Remind them, gently, about one week before your deadline. Remind them again as the deadline closes in. Be assertive in a friendly way until you know their letter is in the mail.
What To Do Next
Send each a Thank You note ("I know how busy you are, and that your time is valuable, so I really appreciate your help...," etc.). This is a thoughtful gesture. This is also smart politics. You may need another such letter or assistance from the same reference later.