Grad School Letters of Recommendation
In order to get into grad school, you'll need letters of recommendation. Two or three of these should come from teachers in your major field of study and another one or two from teachers in your minor field, for a total of three to five letters in all. Here are some tips on how to obtain grad school letters of recommendation.
Get to know those persons from whom you hope to get solid recommendations. Show them the qualities that will make you a good graduate student-that you're smart, hard-working, and studious. Demonstrate that you have good communication skills.
As you get to know these people, decide who would be best to write the letter. Don't force anyone to write a letter of recommendation, but let them know how much it would be appreciated. If they're aware of your plans for grad school, they may volunteer. Notify them about six to eight weeks before the letter is due. Respect the fact that they have other things to do with their time and don't approach them when a busy period (like exam season or graduation) is underway. You don't want a letter of recommendation that sounds rushed or hastily written, and you don't want the teacher to feel rushed when writing it. Be sure to let the teacher know what sort of grad school you plan to apply for and what your precise area of study will be.
Give this person a list of your achievements, both personal and academic. He can use this list when writing the letter. Give examples of how you've overcome difficulties at school and of ways in which you feel you've been successful. Because these teachers will know something about your career as an undergraduate, they may be able to explain areas in which your application is weak-bad grades resulting from family problems or illnesses, for instance, or classes that you dropped out of on the teacher's recommendation.
Let teachers know how to get in touch with you by email or phone, so that they can contact you for clarification if there are things on your record that they don't understand. Make sure they know when you're submitting your application so that they can send in the recommendation at the same time.
Certain people should NOT be used as references, such as family members and other relatives, or people you know only distantly.
Tell the person writing the recommendation that you don't need to see it. If the letter is sealed, the review committee will give it more weight.
If you're asked to write a rough draft for the grad school letters of recommendation, please do so. But do this only if asked; don't suggest it.
Last Updated: 10/01/2013