Writing Process Strategies
Article | How to Get a Recommendation Letter for Graduate School
Article | Details to Give Recommendation Letter Writers
The letter of recommendation is the part of the graduate school application that students stress most over. As with all elements of the application process, your first step is to be sure that you understand what you’re asking for. Learn about letters of recommendation early, well before it is time to apply to graduate school.
What Is a Recommendation Letter?
A letter of recommendation is a letter written on your behalf, typically from an undergrad faculty member, that recommends you as a good candidate for graduate study. All graduate admissions committees require that letters of recommendation accompany students’ applications. Most require three. How do you do about getting a letter of recommendation, specifically a good letter of recommendation?
Who to Ask
Prep Work: Develop Relationships with Faculty
Begin thinking about letters of recommendation as soon as you think you'd like to apply to graduate school because developing the relationships that are the foundation of good letters takes time. In all honesty, the best students seek to get to know professors and get involved regardless of whether they are interested in graduate study simply because it's a good learning experience. Also, graduates will always need recommendations for jobs, even if they don't go to graduate school. Seek experiences that will help you develop relationships with faculty that will get you excellent letters and help you learn about your field.
Choose Faculty to Write on Your Behalf
Carefully choose your letter writers, keeping in mind that admissions committees seek letters from specific types of professionals. Learn about what qualities to look for in referees and don't fret if you're a nontraditional student or one who seeks entry to graduate school several years after graduating from college.
Source: Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. (2020, February 11). How to Get a Recommendation Letter for Graduate School. Retrieved from thoughtco.com.
How to Ask
The Best Ways to Ask for a Recommendation Letter There are plenty of do's and don'ts for obtaining the best recommendation letter possible but how you make the initial request is often most important. Do the following three things when bringing up the topic of a letter.
Ask in person: Asking for any favor by email is impersonal and this is a very big favor. Do your professor the courtesy of formally making your request.
Make an appointment: Arrange an appointment and explain that you wish to discuss your plans for applying to graduate school. This gives your professor time to consider whether they feel able to help you by writing a letter before the meeting even happens.
Give plenty of advance notice: Ask for the letter as far in advance as possible and don't spring its deadline on a faculty member at the last minute. Tell your professor the due date ahead of time so they can make an informed decision about whether they can follow through.
Once you have done all of these things, be prepared to discuss why you believe the chosen faculty member is a good candidate to write the letter of your behalf. Your professor will want to know why you value their perspective in particular before making their decision about whether to help. If they agree to writing the letter, move forward with the process by giving them what they need.
Always take "no" for an answer and don't make a professor repeat it. If a faculty member declines to write your letter, they probably have a good reason and you shouldn't push. Similarly, if a professor seems hesitant but agrees, consider asking someone else. A lukewarm letter of recommendation can be worse than no letter at all.
Source: Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. (2020, February 11). Dos and Don'ts for Requesting a Grad School Recommendation Letter. Retrieved from thoughtco.com
Write a thank-you note for the time and effort that the faculty/staff member put into writing on your behalf. Follow up and share the status of your application and when you are accepted. They will want to know and celebrate your accomplishments!