Graduate School Guide
Getting Recommendation Letters
- Recommendations from faculty who know
you are best. Recommendations from
employers are not as good, but you may use one. The best kind of
employer recommendation is one in which the recommender can attest to your
research abilities. If there are no
faculty recommenders, that will be considered a red flag.
Do not get recommendations from your family and friends.
- Recommendations which only say, "He
was in my class and got an A" are not good. The
recommender should be able to write specific details about your
intellectual curiosity, motivation, etc.
- Getting this kind of
detailed recommendation requires that you get to know your
professors throughout your time as a student.
- Do a URP.
- Participate in class.
- Go to office hours.
- Ask professors for advice on grad
school, jobs, etc.
- Take advantage of any opportunities
to interact with faculty such as attending receptions, serving on
- Keep in touch.
- When you ask someone to recommend you,
provide background information about yourself such as your transcript,
resume, application essay.
- Give your recommender plenty of time to write the letter (e.g. three
- Ask potential recommenders questions
such as, "Do you feel you know me well enough to write a strong
letter?" If they say no, find someone else.
- Some schools will ask for online
submission of recommendation letters, while others will ask for paper. Whichever the case, make sure you are clear on
what is required and provide clear instruction to your recommender.
- If recommender is to mail letters to
the school rather than return to you or submit online, provide stamped,
- Make sure your recommendations are submitted on time.
- You can give the recommender an
earlier deadline than the application deadline, e.g. say "I plan to
submit all my materials by November 15."
- In an online system, you may be able
to monitor what has been received. Otherwise,
ask the recommender to notify you when the letter has been sent.
- If the recommendation has not been
submitted by the date you expect, provide a polite reminder to your
- After the recommendation has been
completed, continue to nurture your relationship with the recommender.
- Send a thank you card for the letter. Writing recommendations takes time, and
professors are very busy.
- Keep your recommender posted through
the admissions process. Let him know about
your acceptances and where you decide to enroll. Without
your recommender, the acceptances would most likely not have been
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