Letters of Recommendation

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When to Make Your Requests

September—and give three weeks for them to respond.

Who to Ask

  1. Faculty members who can comment specifically on who you are as a person and student and have a passion for your future.
  2. A professor who has taught graduate classes, and can compare your potential to the abilities of previous grad students.
  3. An internship supervisor - especially one related to the graduate field you wish to pursue.

How to Ask

  1. Email your professors and request a meeting to discuss your grad school plans.
  2. Ask in a tactful but direct way, "Professor, could you write a strong recommendation letter for grad school?"
  3. Try to determine from their response if they will give you lukewarm or enthusiastic support.

What Information to Supply

  1. Resume
  2. Transcript copy
  3. Statement of Purpose
  4. Any large work you did in that class
  5. 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
  6. 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.
  7. Your telephone number and email address, in case the faculty member needs further information.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

Sample recommendation request letter sample

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.