Making sure you have a few people to write a letter of recommendation or reference for you is an important part of the graduate school application process. These letters should express your skills and abilities, so selecting the right person to write a letter is imperative.

Be sure the people you ask to write a recommendation...

  • Know you well. It is better to have someone who can speak to your accomplishments write your letter than to have someone who doesn't know you very well, but is well known him or herself, do so.
  • Can discuss your skills and abilities. Choose people who have seen your work recently so your abilities are fresh in their minds.
  • Are aware of your current involvements and future plans. You may want to sit down with your writers and tell them why you are heading to graduate school and what you hope to accomplish.
  • Have enough time to write the letter and have all the materials needed. Professors may be writing letters for many students, so give them enough time to complete your letter and clear instructions so they don't get materials confused. It is a good idea to give your writers a stamped, addressed envelope.

Other tips to keep in mind

  • Consider a wide range of writers. This could include professors, employers, supervisors, coaches or church leaders.
  • Ask individuals in person if they will write a letter for you, and be sure to check in to see that your reference has completed the letter. Send a thank you note, and let your references know when you are accepted.
  • Waive your right to review the recommendation. This will allow the reference to write more objectively about you.

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