Tips for requesting letters of recommendation
Professors are pleased to write letters for students, and there are a few steps you can take to facilitate the process:
Be sure to allow the professor plenty of time to write the recommendation. Two to three weeks is the minimum recommended time. The professor may not be able to fulfill your request if you provide less advanced notice.
Provide the following:
- A list of all programs with due dates and whether the recommendation will be completed online or via hard copy
- A copy of your application essay
- A resume and information about your GPA and GRE scores, if appropriate
- A reminder of the classes, work, or research you undertook with the faculty member (this could be a simple list of classes and grades but you might also include a copy of papers you wrote for the professor)
- All pertinent recommendation forms with all information filled out in advance. Be especially sure to sign the section regarding whether or not you waive your right to read the recommendations (see box below).
- A pre-addressed envelope for each recommendation
- Faculty will be most able to write your letters in a timely fashion if you organize them in an effective manner. One common strategy is to prepare a folder that includes all of the material listed above, with specific forms attached in the order of their due dates.
Note: Professors are going to write letters based in part, on their experience with you as a student in class. If an experience was not entirely positive, be aware that a letter may include critical comments or include a discussion of that experience. If you have questions about this, be sure to discuss it with the professor when making the request
WAIVE OR NOT WAIVE ISSUE: Many recommendation forms include a section that describes your rights to see the content of the recommendation should you be accepted into the program. You may either WAIVE that right (thereby allowing the content of the recommendation to remain unknown to you), or NOT WAIVE that right (thereby allowing you to read the recommendation when you arrive at graduate school).
The choice to waive or not waive your right to see the recommendation is yours. The forms usually say that the letters are treated similarly in either case. It is possible, however, that the readers of these letters might think that your recommender gave a more honest appraisal of you if he or she knew you would not ultimately read it. If you want that to happen, you should WAIVE your right to see the letter. BE SURE TO CHECK WHICHEVER BOX YOU WANT TO AND THEN SIGN.