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Requesting Letters of Recommendation

Instructions for Letter of Recommendations

 Internships, summer research programs, graduate and professional schools, and employers almost always require applicants to provide letters of recommendation as part of the application process.  Good letters of recommendation can make a big difference in whether your application is accepted or not.  There are a number of things you should do to enable faculty and staff members to write the best letter possible.

  1. First, ask someone who knows you at least reasonably well.  We recognize that first and second year students may not have gotten a chance to know us beyond taking a single course with us, probably a large course.  However, the more we know you, the more specific, comprehensive, and personal we can make our letters.  If you are applying to graduate school, you should try to select faculty or staff members who had you in a lab.
  2. Try to give us notice at least a couple of weeks prior to the date by which the letters need to be submitted.  While we can sometimes write and submit letters with shorter notice, particularly if we have written a letter for you before, you should not count on this.
  3. Let us know the date by which the letter must be submitted and where and how we are to submit the letter (usually on-line or via e-mail, but occasionally via hard copy). Try to provide us the information for all the letters in a single email.
  4. The more information you can provide us (see below), the better the letters we will be able to write. 
    • You should email us a copy of your own letter of application (an initial draft is fine) and an updated resume. 
    • If your resume does not include your current GPA or courses you have taken that are relevant to your application, provide us this information as well, or forward a copy of your transcript.
    • Remind us which course(s) you took from us, the semester(s) that you took them, and the grade(s) you received.
    • Briefly tell us something about the program, organization, course of study, internship, etc. to which you are applying.
    • Tell us why you feel this opportunity is a good match for you, given your interests and aspirations, and describe what strengths and talents make you a strong candidate.
    • Let us know whether you’d like us to emphasize anything in particular, e.g., specific skills, experiences, accomplishments, etc.
    • Let us know if there are any extenuating circumstances that should be considered during the review of your application, e.g., an illness during a semester that resulted in low grades.
    • If there is anything else that you think would be helpful in writing our letter, please let us know.
  5. After we have agreed to write a letter for you, please provide us all the information requested in 2, 3, and 4 above in a single email.
  6. Note:  You will often be asked to waive or not waive your right to see the letter.  A confidentially written recommendation normally will carry more weight.  If you have some doubts as to whether your recommender will write you a positive letter, you should discuss this with the person ahead of time.
  7. Very important: Follow up with your recommenders when you find out the results of your application. Let us know if you were accepted, got the job, internship, etc. OR if it didn’t work out this time around.