Letters of Recommendation

This is something that you need to be very mindful of. Many faculty write hundreds of letters per “season” – in order for us to provide you with the best possible letters, you need to provide us with the clearest and most helpful organization. Some departments and faculty have more specific requirements, but here are some absolute rules!

  • Choose people who know you well enough to write about you, rather than to simply restate what grade you got in their course.

  • Give potential recommenders the opportunity to say “no” by asking whether or not they feel comfortable writing you a strong reference.

  • A professor cannot write for you unless you have completed the appropriate FERPA forms (see the FERPA page on the Registrar’s site). Most students select the “waiver” with the 6-month box checked; if you instead choose the “consent” you need to be aware that a faculty member may not write for you in this case, and that letters of recommendation where access has not been waived are perceived by readers as being weaker than waived letters.

  • You must supply each recommender with a signed FERPA form, as well as a clear and thorough list of all program sites, names, deadlines, and instructions (like whether an additional form is required, or whether the recommender should expect an email with a link to that program’s reference form, etc.) – find out whether your recommender would prefer this in hard copy or in electronic form. If there are programs that require a snail-mail recommendation, you need to provide stamped and addressed envelopes for those.

  • Be prepared to provide any other materials that your recommenders request in order for them to produce the best possible letter; these often include a resume, personal statement, and/or a degree audit copy.

  • Give your recommenders their requested time (usually 2-3 weeks) after receipt of all pertinent information to submit your LORs on time.

  • You need to make every effort to have all program information compiled for your recommenders together at one time. We realize that deadlines may range from January to April, but it is challenging for us to have program information trickling in from a student. This may seem trivial to you, but please remember that faculty are often writing for so many people that they do not have the extra time to keep returning to one student over and over again.

  • It’s a good idea to write a thank-you note to each recommender!