Guidelines for Letters of Recommendation

Guidelines for Requesting Letters of Recommendation

Writing letters of recommendation are an essential part of what faculty do, because students depend upon them for jobs, professional schools, fellowships, study abroad programs, and for many other opportunities. What follows will help you get the best possible letters.

  • Select faculty with whom you have worked closest. They usually know you the best and can write vividly about your strengths.
  • Faculty normally need at least three weeks notice to comply with your request, even if they already have a letter on file, since they may want to update that letter. Never assume that letters can be faxed or e-mailed at the last second. Allow an equal amount of time for these requests as you would for mailed letters.
  • In your request to faculty, you should include a copy of your resume and transcript (unofficial will do), as well as a copy of any statement of purpose or essay, if required in the application. If no essay or statement of purpose is required, include a paragraph or two explaining to the letter writer what your purpose is in applying, what you hope to accomplish, etc.
  • Copies of past work done for the letter writer or even in another class will be helpful to the letter writer.
  • Make sure that you have filled out the waiver of confidentiality agreement. Letters cannot be sent unless you have done this.
  • Do not rely solely on e-mail when sending requests for letters, and please ask before sending digital versions of your essays, applications, transcripts, etc. Many faculty will prefer hardcopies of these materials.