Letters of Recommendation are required for almost all graduate schools and most require two to four recommendations.
Who to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation
- Ask a recommender who knows you well and can speak to your academic and professional qualifications. Faculty members in your field of study, previous or current employers, internship supervisors, advisors for student organizations, and administrators are excellent options.
- Avoid using references from anyone who would be considered a personal “character” reference. References should represent and be able to speak to a professional relationship, not a personal one.
- Your references should be current, from someone who can speak to your recent experiences and achievements (avoid using references from older high school jobs or experiences).
- Individuals who have worked closely with you make better recommenders than those in the same organization with more senior titles (but who may not know you as well).
How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation
- Allow your chosen letter writers plenty of time to write effective letters; do not wait to the last minute and rush your recommender – this can diminish the quality of letter written for you. Several weeks advance notice is preferred (and appreciated) by most.
- Always ask, “Do you feel that you know me and my work well enough to write a letter of recommendation?” If the individual does not feel comfortable writing the letter, respect their wish and move to the next person. This is better than having a generic, weak letter written for you.
- If the recommender agrees, provide an updated resume, personal statement, and program description.
- Set a due date well in advance of when you plan to apply and provide your recommender with any instructions or preferences that your grad program provided.
- Request that the recommender use company letterhead, when possible.
NOTE: Waiving you right to see the letters written for you is standard practice. The legitimacy of the letter increases (in the eyes of the graduate admissions committee) and this provides a sense of confidentiality for the recommender.