Requesting Letters of Recommendation

Letters of Recommendation and references are commonly required for graduate school, study abroad, volunteer, and employment applications. When I was an undergraduate, and even in high school, I recognized the importance of letters of recommendation, but I also wasn’t sure how to ask. As time went on and I asked for advice regarding the do’s and don’ts of submitting requests, I learned a few things. This information helped me as I applied to graduate school programs and enter academia.

In order to demystify the recommendation request process, I have compiled my own set of guidelines for the process. These guidelines were inspired by Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen and Dr. Kimberly Springer.

  • Did you take at least one class with me or work with me in another capacity (i.e. student organization, undergraduate research project)?
  • Did you do well in my course(s)? Were you an active participant and engaged with course material?
  • Am I the best professor to speak to your abilities regarding the position for which you are applying? Am I the best professor to write a strong recommendation on your behalf?
  • Are you my advisee?
  • Are you prepared to explain why you’re interested in the graduate program or position?

Now that you’ve considered the above-mentioned questions, please see below regarding requesting a letter of recommendation:

  1. Please ask me at least one month in advance. You may ask me via email or in person. If you’re applying for graduate school or study abroad, I encourage you to schedule an appointment to meet so we can discuss the program or position.
  2. If I agree to write your letter of recommendation, please make sure I receive the following documents/information:
    1. Personal statement/statement on why you are interested in X, Y, or Z
    2. Updated CV or resume
    3. Please provide a list of deadlines and institutions you’re applying to as well as how the letters of recommendations will be submitted. Will you be having each university send me an email request? Are you using a dossier service? May it be submitted via email?
    4. If you want me to comment or highlight something specific about your work in my class, please let me know.
    5. Please provide a job ad or link to any other necessary information concerning where the recommendation letter is going. In other words, does the program have a website? Is there a specific posting about a study abroad opportunity or fellowship?
  3. Please let me know if your application was successful! If I’m writing a letter on your behalf I would like to hear about your achievements.

And finally, here are some tips by Adam Grant on “How Not to Ask for a Recommendation Letter.”

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