Advice for Requesting Reference Letters from Professors

Writing letters of recommendation can be very time consuming.  Keep in mind that you are not the sole requester and requests generally come to professors at very busy times.  Following the suggestions below can make the process easier on everyone involved.

  • Give advance notice.  Submit recommendation requests at least two weeks in advance of the deadlines.  A professor is likely to write a more thoughtful recommendation if given the time to do so.  This is a courtesy and failure to do so may result in a letter that is not as carefully prepared due lack of time.
  • Submit a resume and unofficial transcript with your request.  A resume will make it easier for the professor to write a strong letter since the resume will contain information that they may not know about you.  You might also include a list of things not on your resume or transcript that you think might help the recommender (for example, provide a description of a major project or research paper you completed).
  • Include a list of the applications.  Include a separate list of the places/programs to which you are applying.  Indicate if the letter should be returned to you, if it is to be submitted online (include online submission address and/or link), or if it is to be sent in the mail (provide mailing address).  Include deadlines for receipt of recommendations.  If there are forms to be included with the letter of recommendation, make sure all the relevant information to be provided by you is completed in full.  Including a brief description of what you are applying for can also be helpful.
  • Access Waiver.  Most forms include an access waiver question.  If you do not waive access, recipients may not put much weight on the letter because it is not confidential.  In some cases professors will not write letters of recommendation unless access is waived.