Most graduate programs will require letters of recommendation from individuals who can speak to your academic ability, interest in the field of study, or personal character.
- Teaching Assistants
- Academic Advisors
- Association Deans
Asking for Letters
Plan ahead! Make an appointment with the letter writer and take with you a brief description of your plans and the degree programs to which you're applying, as well as copies of your resume and academic transcripts. If you are requesting a recommendation from a professor, also take any papers written for that professor. Usually, you'll need to ask for recommendation letters in late summer and/or early fall semester of the year in which you are applying to graduate school. In any case, you need to ask well in advance of when the letter is due. Keep track of deadlines and request letters two to three months in advance.
Provide the recommender with the proper forms and information to submit your letter. Most applications require a recommendation cover sheet, and most cover sheets ask if you agree to waive your rights to view the letter. You should always agree; not doing so may raise suspicion. Once your recommenders have submitted your letter always follow-up with thank-you notes.
If you intend to go to graduate school but do not plan to apply right away, you should ask for letters from your professors before you leave school so that your letter writers will still remember you and your accomplishments. Use a service like Interfolio to store confidential letters for later use.