Letter of Recommendation | 3 min read

• Most graduate programs ask for three letters of recommendation for applicants.
• Recommendation providers should know you and your work well enough to refer you.
• Build a rapport with professors during your time at university.

The admission committees value the recommendations because it is evidence that someone in academics vouches for your potential. It might not be a deciding factor among others but it would be dominant when the application reaches the final-round decision, being on par with peers.

Who should you ask for a recommendation letter?
Most graduate schools require three recommendation letters for applicants with the condition that at least two of the recommenders should be academic faculty or an academic advisor. The admission committee values the recommendations because it is evidence that someone vouches for your potential in research as well as your character. That means, recommendation providers should know you and your work well enough. If you have professional experience, you may request your supervisor for a letter of recommendation.

What you should know is that writing a recommendation is not a small task. It is a personal guarantee that would damage their professional reputation. So don’t be discouraged even if you get refusals from professors since they take it seriously. It is smart to request politely to professors who’ve known you for a long enough time so that they can evaluate your academic excellence. Also, recommendations from alumni might be effective in some cases.

How do you get a strong letter of recommendation?
Once again, you should be asking for letters of recommendation from professors with whom you’ve been building rapport - those who have evaluated your work or projects or at least those who taught you in classes. In case you are in your undergraduate, try to build a relationship with professors during your time at college. If you’re applying for a Ph.D. program with a master’s degree, make sure to get your academic advisor’s recommendation. They would be more clear with vivid descriptions if your recommendation providers know you and your work well enough.

To get a quality letter, you should make a strategic plan and share it with your letter-writers, providing application materials; potential graduate program list, CV, Statements of Purpose, Transcript, English Proficiency Test Scores(if applicable), and so on. That they know you well enough doesn’t guarantee a quality recommendation. Sharing your application materials would make them consider strengthening your features by identifying you on the given materials.
It would be wonderful that each letter carries different features of yours, goes beyond your given numbers and figures.

When should you ask the professor for a letter of recommendation?
You should ask for recommendations at least two months prior to application deadlines. If you’ve requested them for recommendations on a tight deadline, in some cases, the professor may say no. It is best to visit faculty members, asking politely for letters of recommendation. You might begin your conversation about research interests and goals and then ask them politely if they can write a letter of recommendation. They would be willing to write a recommendation.

How do you submit recommendation letters?
It is general to submit recommendations online. You should enter the information for each of your recommenders: name, email address, affiliated department/institution, faculty title. Once you complete the application, the automated email will be sent to your recommenders’ email address. (Due to graduate programs, applicants might decide when to send the email requesting the recommendations.) Once the recommenders received the email, they could upload the documents online or copy and paste in the given form by clicking on the links in the email they received.

Make sure to check the instructions included in the email when sending links. There should be no question when and where to submit the recommendations. If necessary, gently remind them that they have not submitted yet their recommendations. After submitting your application, send a thank-you email expressing your appreciation for their guidance. Keep them updating your progress throughout the application process and inform them whether you are in or not. Try to continue a close and positive relationship with your professors.

The Steps of Applying to Graduate Schools will be more discussed in the continued articles.

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