Information and Advice on Asking for Letters of Recommendation
During your time as a student in the MA program, there may be times when you need to ask faculty for a letter of recommendation, especially if you plan to apply to a Ph.D. program. Faculty are generally happy to write these letters on your behalf, but it is important to take the following into consideration:
- Request letters only from faculty who have been your instructor for at least one course,
and preferably for at least two. Strategize your coursework so that you take courses
with faculty from whom you would request a letter. If you are applying to Ph.D. programs,
it is also crucial to do research ahead of time to determine which programs are best
for you, and to write to faculty in those programs to tell them of your interests
and intention to apply.
- It is better to get a recommendation from faculty who would have multiple points of
reference regarding your performance in the program – faculty on your thesis or exam
committee, from whom you have taken classes, and/or for whom you have been a grading
or teaching assistant, and classes.
- When requesting the recommendation, be sure to ask about it as early as possible.
Give the recommender at least two weeks to prepare and submit the letter. When you
make the request, provide a printout of any and all relevant materials about the recommendation
(do not send website links and ask the faculty to look them up) including: what the
letter is intended for; name and address of the person and the institution or organization
to which you are applying (even if the letter is to be submitted electronically);
due date for the letter; and any instructions as to what information the letter should
include. Do not request a recommendation unless you are certain that you will be applying
to that institution or organization.
- Provide your recommender with as much material about your training, goals, and accomplishments as possible, including:
- your statement of purpose (if applicable),
- unofficial transcripts,
- your CV or resume, listing GPA, honors and awards, papers delivered, internship held, etc.,
- papers you wrote for that faculty member (ideally with his/her comments),
- a description of what you hope the faculty member will emphasize (based on interactions you had with that faculty member), and
- any weaknesses (perhaps GRE scores or language training) you hope the recommender will address/ameliorate. Ideally, you should be copying your MA thesis/exam adviser on these exchanges.