Letters of Recommendation

  • While some programs may permit you to submit letters of recommendation from anyone, most want to hear from a  faculty member who has had you in class or with whom you have conducted research.
  • Ask for recommendations from professors who are familiar with you and your work, who are reliable, and will follow through. Ask if they can write you a strong, positive recommendation.
  • A good way to get to know faculty members is by doing research with them which promotes good working relationships between students and faculty.
  • Ask politely and far in advance of deadlines.
  • Waive your right to review the letter or recommendation form. You do not have to do so, but it will likely lend more credence to the recommendation when read by the selection committee.
  • Provide your recommenders with an information sheet as described in the next section.
  • Follow up with your recommenders to confirm that your recommendations have been sent prior to deadlines.
  • You should always send a thank you to your recommenders expressing your appreciation for their time and support of your application. Keep them updated both on the outcome of your application and your next steps.
  • The American Medical College Application Service uses the terminology 'letters of evaluation' instead of 'letters of recommendation. The AMCAS Letter Service and distributes them to participating medical schools electronically. This service enables letter authors to send their letters to AMCAS rather than to each individual school.

Supply an Information Sheet

Provide an information sheet about yourself to those who agree to write reference letters for you. This information allows your recommenders to write accurate, supportive letters tailored for you and your goals, rather than general letters. Any assistance given to your reference writers in this way can put you in a better position for being accepted into the graduate school of your choice.

Consider including the following information:

  • Your name, local/permanent address, and phone number
  • Email address
  • Purpose of the reference letter (What kind of programs are you applying to? Degree type? Specific area of study?)
  • Major/minor
  • Major GPA, overall GPA
  • An initial draft of your personal statement to better inform your recommenders about what you have accomplished and why you are applying
  • A copy of your application, if possible
  • Current resume or CV
  • List of classes you've taken which were taught by your reference writer, when you took them, and the grades you received
  • List of other relevant classes you've taken and the grades you've received
  • Relevant professional, research, or extracurricular experiences and honors
  • Short term and long term career goals
  • Hobbies
  • Special personal traits/qualities
  • Your philosophy/beliefs
  • Reasons for attending graduate school
  • Your strengths and challenges
  • Your academic skills

Sometimes providing a resume is enough but any other information that is supplied will only aide you in receiving a quality recommendation.


Source: gvsu.edu/counsel; gvsu.edu/fellowships/tips-for-requesting-a-letter-of-recommendation-32.htm#Letter; Graduate School and You: A guide for Prospective Graduate Students