Tips for Getting Strong Letters of Recommendation

letters-of-recommendation

During the graduate school admissions process, you may find that a program requests one or more letters of recommendation. Of course, if you've already earned a bachelor's degree, it's likely the undergraduate programs you applied to asked the same of you. Still, as that was several years ago, a refresher never hurts. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want your potential graduate school to be impressed with your letters of recommendation:

Follow the directions

Before you contact anyone about writing you a letter of recommendation, make sure you understand exactly what the school is looking for. Maybe your uncle would write a stellar letter, but if admissions officials want to read what a former educator has to say about you, you're going to want to choose someone else. Plus, ignoring key directions does little to inspire confidence in whoever reviews your application materials.

Don't put off asking

Once you find the right people for the job, be sure to reach out to them and ask as soon as possible. Some educators may have committed to writing as many as 30 letters of recommendation. It's important for you to recognize the lengths your recommenders are going to help you. The least you could do is give them plenty of time to give the letters the attention they deserve. Wait too long to ask someone and admissions officials may end up reading a rushed letter that lacks the details they're looking for.

Give some reminders

Has it been a few years since you last sat in a recommender's classroom? Maybe you asked a former employee to write you a letter. Either way, it's a smart idea to have a conversation that reminds them why you were a great student or worker.

Has it been a few years since you last sat in a recommender's classroom? Maybe you asked a former employee to write you a letter. Either way, it's a smart idea to have a conversation that reminds them why you were a great student or worker.

If an educator is writing your letter, The College Board's BigFuture website suggests you talk about any challenges you overcame, remind the individual of projects you're proud of and supply any information he or she may need to write an effective letter. Taking these steps will prevent your letter from reading like a stranger wrote it.

Show your appreciation

Graduate school admissions officials may never learn about this last tip, but it's pretty essential. After your recommenders have submitted their letters, USA Today College suggests you give them a thank-you card or even a gift. It's a small amount of work on your part in recognition of letters that could help you get into your dream program.

 

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