Letters of Recommendation

Most employers, graduate schools, and professional schools will want to see more than just a transcript before you are hired or accepted; they will probably ask for some letters of recommendation and a resume. Even as a freshman, you should start thinking about how you would hope these documents might read when you graduate. In fact, you may need them for summer positions even sooner. You will be given advice on how to prepare resumes, write cover letters, and interview for a job in a variety of classes and workshops before you graduate. For now, here are a few important ideas.

Asking for a Letter of Recommendation

Writing letters of recommendation is an important and rewarding part of our jobs. We are happy to help. However, there are several things you can do to make the process easier. What follows are some general guidelines; some professors may have more specific ones:

  • Give as much lead time as possible.
  • Let us know of any deadlines and don’t hesitate to call with a reminder.
  • Give us information about you.
    • Provide a transcript and at least a rough draft of a resume or a list of academic and extracurricular activities.
    • The more we know about you, the better job we can do.
  • Give us information about the position or school to which you are applying. Let us know why you are interested in this position or school.
  • Provide an address with a specific individual’s name (when possible) and specific program name.
  • If a form is included:
    • Complete the portion that is your responsibility
    • Sign the waiver (if one is provided). Recommendation forms generally include a place for the student to sign that waives his/her right to look at the letter in the future. We recommend that you waive this right since the letter is often considered to be more reliable.
  • You do not need to include an envelope. We will use letterhead paper.

For Your Information: What Goes Into a Letter of Recommendation?

Since the person or committee that reviews your application generally knows what your grades are, they are looking for information beyond comments on classroom performance. Here are a few areas that are usually addressed

  • Writing and speaking skills
  • Dedication to the field or job
  • Mastery of subject matter
  • Initiative
  • Ability to solve problems
  • Integrity / Maturity
  • Ability to work independently
  • Creativity / Ingenuity
  • Ability to work with others
  • Reliability / Punctuality
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