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* Academics

Undergraduate Program

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 committees, etc.
    • 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 weeks).
  • 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, addressed envelopes.
  • 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 recommender.
  • 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 possible.

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