Guidelines for Requesting Letters of Recommendation

The graduate faculty are usually happy to write recommendation letters for qualified students who are applying for further schooling, employment, scholarships, and grants. A few guidelines, however: 

1. We cannot fairly serve as referees for you without proper acquaintance: Before asking for a recommendation letter, you must have completed a course with the faculty member and have earned a grade of at least a B or have been acquainted with the individual in some other capacity for at least a full semester (for example, as an intern or graduate assistant). (The exception: First-term students who are applying for the CHSS graduate student scholarship are required to have a letter from the Director of Graduate Studies in English; feel free to ask.) 

2. Give the professor at least a few weeks and preferably more time to complete the letter. Often faculty are working under pressures of class or professional deadlines, so it is not possible for them to get letters out at the last minute. Plan your applications well in advance. 

3. Make the request formally, letting the professor know very clearly what you are applying for (a particular scholarship or a particular field of study at a particular institution). Make the request each time that you need a letter; professors may be annoyed if a link to an on-line recommendation form shows up without warning. Provide the name, title, and address of the contact to whom the faculty member should send the letter. If you are applying for academic programs, supply the recommender with pre-addressed and pre-posted envelopes. 

4. If the institution or organization to which you are applying requires a cover sheet, please get that to the recommender in due time. As a matter of form, sign the waiver that insures confidentiality. If the faculty member agrees to write you a letter, it will certainly be a good one, so you need not worry about his or her sabotaging your application with a damaging or less-than-enthusiastic recommendation. However, if you do not sign the confidentiality waiver, those on the receiving end might suspect that the referee has been less than honest. 

5. Give your recommender a current curriculum vitae (note the spelling of that document) or, at least, a list of accomplishments and interests, especially those that suit you well for the job, scholarship, or educational program for which you are applying. 

6. Acknowledge receipt of the letter: That is, thank the faculty member for the recommendation. 

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