Asking for a Recommendation

Asking for a letter of recommendation


Many of you will need letters of recommendation from the faculty, either for graduate school, professional school, internships, or jobs.  Don’t let this need catch you by surprise! 


Preparing to ask for letters of recommendation


1) Get to know faculty by coming to office hours and speaking in class.  It’s especially useful to develop a working relationship with a faculty member by participating in the English Department honors seminar, conducting an independent study, or designing an independent research project through the MURALs or PUF programs. 


2) Save your work from classes in which you have performed well.  Keep a portfolio of the work of which you are most proud.  If you think you might want to ask a particular professor for a recommendation, save all of the work you do in her or his classes.


When it is time to ask for a recommendation


1)  Ask professors who know you and for whom you have done your best work.  If you are applying to graduate school in a particular field (such as African American literature), be sure to include at least one letter from a professor who is publishing scholarship in that field.  You can learn this from the English department website. 


2) Approach each professor at least two weeks before a letter is due.  Try to plan ahead so that you can give recommenders three to four weeks. 


3) If you need more than one letter, provide a list in chronological order of the different addresses and directions for each letter and the date each is due.


4) If you are applying to many graduate schools or law schools, please use a credential service so that professors only need to write one letter – such a service is available through Advising Services.


5) Sign the waiver form(s).  Although you can certainly refuse to waive your rights, institutions tend to take recommendations less seriously when you have done so.


6) To help the professor write the recommendation, provide:


-a rough draft of your statement of purpose;

-a resume or list of honors, awards, activities, internships, etc.;

-an unofficial transcript, if possible;

-and, above all, copies of the work you did in his or her class, preferably including comments. 


7) For each letter required, provide a stamped, addressed envelope.   If the letter is going on campus, you do not need to include stamps.


Finally, let your recommenders know what happened with your applications!