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, especially for those with experience in the field, or those applying to business programs. 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.

If you are seeking recommendations from your alma mater after graduation, know that the period during which individuals 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:

  • A reminder of how you know one another, if you have been out of school for some time
  • An overview of your goals
  • A copy of your resume
  • Insight to help them frame their letter