Letters of Recommendation

Graduate and professional applications typically require two to four recommendation letters. Although recommendations are by their nature confidential, there are certain things you can do to encourage success.

Manage the Recommendation Process

Recommendations offer admissions committees another way to assess your potential and fit for their program.

Understand the requirements.

It is important to closely follow the instructions that are provided for each application. Programs will specify how letter writers must go about submitting the recommendation.

Choose writers wisely.

Be sure to understand specific program requirements highlighting who must submit a letter. Academic references tend to be emphasized, although some schools accept work-related references as well. It is usually best to have a strong letter from someone who knows your capabilities in detail, rather than a weaker one from a prominent individual who does not. 

Provide sufficient lead time.

The period during which students are seeking recommendations often coincides with the busiest time for faculty. Be sure to ask at least one month in advance to avoid disappointment.

Help your writers help you.

As a courtesy, you may wish to provide your writers with:

  • An overview of your goals.
  • A copy of your resume.
  • Insight to help them frame their letter.

Establish your Credentials File.

Career Services can help you consolidate the process of providing letters of recommendation from your professors. This service is especially convenient if you plan to apply a few years after graduation, as it allows you to store letters from current professors before you leave campus. These letters will be available if you decide to apply to graduate schools sometime in the future.