Letters of Recommendation for Grad School Apps

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Remember that GRE score is only one part of the graduate school application. Most graduate schools will also require that you submit at least three letters of recommendation. These are letters that you will request from other people to tell your prospective graduate program that you are worthy of admission.

Why Letters of Recommendation are Important

Graduate schools have limited resources they can use to guage your potential--GRE score, GPA, personal statement, and letters of recommendation. Because there are so few items for you to impress with, you want every part of your graduate application to be stellar.

Graduate school admissions is different from undergraduate admissions in that graduate schools don't follow a formula. Undergraduate admissions tends to place importance on SAT scores or GPA since there are so many applicants. Undergradute admissions committee have to quickly review applications.

Graduate admissions, on the other hand, has fewer applications to review and acceptance is more subjective.

Who to Ask to Write a Letter of Recommendation

The best people to ask for letters from are professors or work supervisors from a job related to the field you are applying to. Graduate admissions will consider such letters of recommendation with higher regard since the letters will be written by those who know what it takes to succeed in graduate school and/or the field.

Get to know your professors or supervisors and make sure they get to know you too. The better your letter writers know you, the better your letters of recommendation will be. Your letter will sound generic if your letter writers don't really know who they're writing for.

Also, don't be afraid to ask your professors for letters of recommendation. Most professors are used to such requests, and if you did well in their class most likely, they will write a letter for you. Try to ask professors whose classes you've earned higher than a 'B'.

When to Make a Request

If possible, give people at least a couple of months to write your letters. Everyone is busy. This will assure they don't miss the deadline.

What to Give to Letter Writers

Make the process as easy as possible for your letter writers since they are doing you a favor. Provide a resume, your statement of purpose, and a stamped and addressed envelope so that they can mail your letter to your prospective graduate school. Such materials will speed up the letter-writing process.

Send Friendly Reminders

Remember that professors are very busy, so it's possible that they could forget to write your letter, so make sure you send them a friendly reminder that your graduate application deadline is approching.