Career Development

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are an important component of graduate school applications. Start building relationships with your professors, advisors, and employers early. You want to ask for recommendations from people that are familiar with your work because they can write a strong letter.

Important Information to Know:

  • Approach the letter writers 1-2 months in advance of the deadline, then give them a gentle reminder 1-2 weeks in advance if they haven’t submitted it yet.
  • Your letter writers aren’t robots! They don’t remember everything about you. Remind them of your relationship- “I took your PSY 300 class in the spring of 2015, my research project was…” Provide them with an updated resume & a draft of your personal statement.
  • Line up at least one extra letter writer in case someone is unable to meet your deadline.
  • The best letter writers know you well and can provide an evaluation of your ability to perform and succeed.
  • While an undergraduate, take every opportunity to get to know and talk with your professors; go to office hours, ask questions in class, seek advice about your career, do independent research, or study with a professor whose recommendation you may want.

Requesting Letters or Recommendations

  • Be clear with the professor about what the graduate program requires for submitting letters of recommendation
  • Once the recommender agrees to write a letter, make the date you would like the letter finished clear. It is often useful to give them a date before the real deadline.
  • Depending on the graduate on the graduate school, they may require submissions of documents online or mailed, if so be ready, have pre-addressed envelopes, forms, stamps, etc.
  • Some schools want confidential letters sent directly from the recommender, which you do not have an opportunity to see.
  • Let your recommender know if they should give you the letters so that out can submit it with your application materials.
  • Some graduate programs want the letter written on a particular form that they provide in the application packet; others will accept a letter on letterhead.
  • Your goal is to make submitting the letter as easy and straightforward for your letter writer as possible.
  • Write a warm and sincere thank you letter to the letter once the letter is done.