Requesting Letters of Recommendation

Tips for Requesting Letters of Recommendation

Faculty members are usually happy to write letters of recommendation, provided the students who request them observe a few common courtesies.

  1. You should get to know professors from whom you expect to request a letter of recommendation. Stop by office hours and introduce yourself, and otherwise try to distinguish yourself in their classes. Not only does this help a faculty member know who you are, but it also enables them to write more persuasively on your behalf. A detailed letter of recommendation indicates to its recipient that you have made a genuine favorable impression on the faculty member writing the letter.
  2. Please ask professors if they are willing to write on your behalf a MINIMUM of two weeks before the letter is due, even if they have written for you before. Do not expect them to drop all other obligations to prioritize your needs.
  3. When asking for a recommendation via email be sure to clearly indicate the nature of your request in your subject line and to address faculty in a courteous and respectful manner.

Once a professor has agreed to write on your behalf, she will require the following:

  • A single, complete, and coherent list of instructions regarding all the letters you are requesting, including:
    • Information about the nature of the position you are seeking.
    • Application due date.
    • Delivery instructions (If it is an online recommendation, will the faculty member receive a prompt or are you providing an electronic address? If it is to be submitted as hard copy, should the faculty member mail it directly or do you need to send it with your application materials?).
    • To whom the letter should be addressed (e.g. "Dear Fellowship Committee") and the address of the institution. Even if submitted online, a professional letter includes the address of the person being addressed.
  • A brief paragraph explaining your reasons for applying for a fellowship, grad school, law school, etc.
  • An up-to-date resume or curriculum vitae.
  • An unofficial transcript.