Graduate, medical, and law schools, as well as many potential employers, require letters of recommendation from one or more faculty members. Even when your post-graduation plans are uncertain, it may be wise to ask at least one faculty member who knows you well to write a general recommendation letter to be kept on file.

Most graduate schools will want three letters from faculty who know you and your work well. Most graduate programs have particular recommendation forms that they prefer faculty to use, and there are deadlines for receipt of these letters from the faculty at the institution to which you are applying. Look through these materials and get the forms and addressed stamped envelopes to faculty early so that the deadlines can be met.

Letters of recommendation for graduate programs typically include the following information: academic ability as evidenced by grades and work in courses, character (reliability, honesty, leadership, cooperativeness, etc.), evidence of research potential (research assistance on faculty projects, independent research), and overall promise as a professional in the area you have chosen. Obviously, it is to your advantage to have worked with one or more faculty members, to have held a job in the Department, or to have otherwise enabled us to become well-acquainted with you.

Talk to each faculty member whom you ask to prepare a letter of recommendation for you. Any materials you could provide about your background (e.g., through a resume) and a written description of the programs will contribute to a stronger, more specific letter on your behalf. It also helps to provide each faculty member with a list of all the programs and their deadline dates. Allow faculty sufficient time to write a letter for you–two weeks is minimal for most faculty.