Asking For a Letter of Recommendation For Graduate School

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  Asking For a Letter of Recommendation For Graduate School Asking For a Letter of Recommendation For Graduate School

Helpful tips on how to choose the best referees for your graduate program.


Applying to a masters degree or PhD program takes a lot of time and effort. Besides taking your GRE, writing your personal statement and filling out applications, you also have to provide letters of recommendation. The recommendation letter is important because it gives the review committee an outside perspective on your achievements and personal qualities that cannot be found elsewhere. For this reason, it is crucial that you ask the right people, as a bad recommendation can ruin your chances of attending grad school.

If this is your first time asking for a letter of recommendation, or if you need to brush up on your skills, read on for more helpful information on how to ask for a graduate school letter of recommendation.

When Should You Ask for a Grad School Recommendation?

Usually grad school applications need to be sent in by November or December. Typically a graduate program will require at least three letters of recommendation. You will want to ask your professors for a letter of recommendation at least a month prior to the due date of your application, as these months are the busiest time for professors and you don't want to catch them off guard. Identify who you will ask by the end of the summer so that you can set up a meeting and ask your professor by the beginning of the fall semester.

Who Should You Ask for Grad School Recommendation?

If you are in your junior or senior year of your bachelors degree program, then you should have a few professors in mind that you want to ask. If you have not made any connections with professors, make it a point to start now. Take the time to attend a new club proctored by a professor or simply put in extra effort into your research papers and projects. Both activities will give your professors a chance to see your dedication to the field.

Students who have been out of school for some time might not know who to ask for letters of recommendation. Asking for letters of recommendations from employers or co-workers is acceptable and a good substitute for letters from professors. However, the admissions committee would prefer to read recommendations from your academic professors and faculty because a large part of grad school requires working closely with your professors, and you want to show that you have experience doing so.

What Materials Should You Provide Your Grad School Referees

You want your professors to have the material as soon as possible so they have ample time to draft their letter. In addition, you want to show them that you are dedicated to attending graduate school. Included in your supplemental materials should be a copy of your transcript, resume, term paper, copy of your statement of purpose, list of experiences and achievements and a card with a self-addressed and stamped envelope that the professor should send out once they have turned in their letters.

Make sure that your professors know exactly how they need to send in their application whether it be through snail mail, email, or through the an internet form. They should not be finishing their letters only to find out that they do not know where to send them.

Letters of Recommendation Tips & Tactics:

  • If a professor declines to send you a letter, don’t try and push them into writing one for you because their letter would only hurt your application.
  • Prior to submitting your letters of recommendation, you will be asked if you want to waive your rights to view the letter. Though it may be tempting to maintain your rights, confidential letters tend to carry more weight with admissions committees.
  • You should write a thank you note to your professors after they have submitted their letters. This will let them know that you appreciate their help and will leave the door open for future recommendations.

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