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A recommendation is a detailed written statement (usually from a faculty member, supervisor, employer, or mentor) of your personal and professional qualities, qualifications, accomplishments, and experiences that make you well-qualified for admission into a graduate program.

Choosing references

Best choices for references (professionals recommending you for graduate programs) include those who have mentored you in volunteer, internship, or paid work related to your graduate field, who know your career goals and can attest to your ability to succeed in graduate-level work.

Approaching potential references

Decide whom you want to ask and then schedule a conversation with your potential references to discuss your request in-person or over the phone.

  • Ask if your potential references can write a strong letter of recommendation. Pay attention to their demeanor. If you sense reluctance, ask someone else.
  • Be prepared to articulate why you think they know you best and why they can address your skills and qualifications.
  • Give your references at least one month to prepare your letter or recommendation form. You may offer friendly, gentle reminders as the deadline approaches.

Information to provide

  • Unofficial transcript (note any classes you took under their instruction if asking a professor)
  • Academic resume/curriculum vitae
  • Due dates for recommendations
  • Recommendation forms or links to the forms
  • Stamped, addressed envelopes to send forms and letters directly to the schools if not submitted online

Confidentiality: The Waiver Statement

Recommendation forms (either by electronic submission or by regular mail) require you to decide whether to waive or retain your right to see the recommendation. As you decide whether to retain your right, keep in mind confidential letters tend to carry more weight with admissions committees. A confidential letter or form means you, the applicant, have waived your right to see the recommendation.