Looking at a grad school letter of recommendation example or two can be very useful when preparing your graduate school application. Whether you've been asked to or you're still trying to figure out how to ask for a recommendation, examples will give you a better idea of what your letter needs to include, how it should be formatted, and who it should come from. In this blog, we share a grad school letter of recommendation example, and we also provide some tips to help you get the best letter of recommendation possible from your chosen writers.
If you have decided to go to graduate school, then you need to know that your grad school letter of recommendation is one of the most important application components you will submit. It is an objective evaluation of your suitability for graduate school in the form of a letter written by a third party who has either worked with you, taught you, or supervised you in the past.
These recommendation letters are extremely important because they allow the grad school admissions board to learn more about you directly from one of their peers, a professor, or from a different respected professional. This professional's assessment of your skills and abilities helps the board determine whether you have what it takes to excel in their program and why your strengths and background make you the perfect fit for their school.
Some grad school programs give students the option of submitting letters of recommendation instead of making it a required part of the admissions process. If your chosen school happens to be one of them, we recommend that you still submit at least two letters of recommendation, as they will add valuable information to your overall application.
Even though it may seem as though recommendation letters discuss the same information as a personal statement or a , the impact that these documents have is different. You can highlight your strengths and talk about your goals in your admission essays, thus significantly improving your application. However, having glowing recommendation letters from credible sources that endorse those same strengths and highlight other skills that can help you achieve your goals, strengthens your application even more. In other words, even if you won't be penalized for not submitting an optional letter of recommendation, not getting at least one of them would be missing out on a chance to tell the admissions board more about you and score some extra points.
Furthermore, if you have any weak areas in your application, a detailed and enthusiastic letter of recommendation highlighting the right skills for your chosen program can sway the admissions committee in your favor. For example, if you’re wondering , securing strong grad school letters of recommendation is one of the best strategies that you could use.
Before we look at the typical format of a grad school letter of recommendation, you should remember that some schools provide specific instructions for the letters of recommendation. Always verify the admission requirements of the program you are applying to. If there are any instructions for the recommendations, it is imperative that you share them with your chosen writers so that they can write the letter according to the school's specifications.
That said, unless otherwise stated by the school, your grad school letter of recommendation should be a one-page document, neatly organized into four to six paraphs. We recommend that it be written in a classic font that is easy to read, like Ariel or Times New Roman, in 10 to 12 points.
Wondering how to get into grad school?
Keep in mind that your grad school letter of recommendation is a formal academic document. So it is best to keep the structure simple and easy to follow. We recommend the following:
To Whom it may concern,
It is with great pleasure that I write this letter recommending Aisha Diallo for your Applied Social Psychology master's program. I am an associate professor at [Name of University], and I have known Aisha for approximately three years. I first met her when she was a student in my Theories of Psychology class during her freshman year. I was so impressed with her that when she applied for a research assistant position in our department a few months later, I was compelled to give her the role.
As a student, Aisha is passionate and committed to her studies. When she first started in my class, she struggled with some of the material, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she enrolled in a tutoring class only a few weeks into the semester. Most students do not take that kind of initiative during their first year in college, so her actions told me that she was committed to doing well in my class and her studies in general.
Additionally, her passion for psychology is undeniable. During class discussions, she frequently asked questions and made intelligent contributions, which I thoroughly enjoyed. As a research assistant, she continues to do the same - asking about different procedures, doing her own research about some of the concepts discussed in the lab, and going the extra mile to ensure every task she is given is meticulously completed.
Despite being involved in several extracurricular activities while maintaining an impressive GPA, she showed up early for every shift, delivered every assignment on time, and on several occasions, she stayed after hours to help her colleagues take care of other administrative tasks like writing emails to follow up with the participants of our study or updating the bulletin boards around our office to make sure all of the posters and infographics are up to date.
Over the past three years, I have gotten to know Aisha as a student, an employee, and a person. I can confidently say that her passion for the field of psychology, hardworking nature, and strong desire to learn will make her a great addition to any program.
I hope you will strongly consider accepting her to your program, and I remain available if you have any questions about her candidacy.
Joshua Smith, PhD
Ask the right recommenders
If you want to secure a strong letter of recommendation, you need to select your recommenders carefully. Most graduate school programs ask for at least three letters of recommendation, and typically at least one of them needs to be written by a professor or instructor from your undergraduate program. However, picking the right referee is not as simple as choosing someone with the right professional title.
We recommend that you ask yourself the following questions for the recommenders that you are considering asking for a letter:
Ask early and courteously
Many students are unsure when or how to ask for grad school letters of recommendation. When applying to college, the timeline is more straightforward, so students have a pretty good idea of when and how to ask for For graduate school, you must remember that the manner in which you ask for a letter of recommendation will directly impact the quality of the letter that you receive if you even receive one at all.
We recommend asking for a grad school letter of recommendation at least six to eight weeks before it is due. This gives your chosen writers enough time to draft, write, edit and polish the letter. When requesting a letter, you should also keep your selected writers' schedule in mind. For example, suppose you know that your application deadline coincides with midterm week for the professor who is writing your letter of recommendation. In that case, you should ask them for a recommendation even earlier so that they have more time to work on your request.
Keep in mind that when you are asking for a recommendation, you are essentially asking for a professional favor. This means that you need to be courteous and professional when you are speaking with your chosen writers. It would be best to ask for grad school letters of recommendation in person, but if that's not an option for you, then you may send the request by email. Whether you are making the request in person or by email, you need to ask for a letter of recommendation explicitly and provide your recommenders with all the information they may need to write and submit this letter.
Have you prepared your grad school CV yet? Check out this video for tips:
Provide your writers with additional information
It is your responsibility to make sure that your chosen writers have all the information they need to write and submit a strong grad school letter of recommendation. We suggest putting together an information packet that you can give to your chosen writers to make sure that they are prepared. Make sure that this includes your contact information so that they can reach out if they need additional information.
Your information packet should include the following items:
- An updated copy of your
- A copy of your admissions essays (e.g., statement of purpose, personal statement, , etc.)
- A list of the graduate schools you are applying to
- An autobiographical document detailing your relevant extracurricular experiences and a rough outline of your career goals.
- A short list of specific accomplishments, experiences, and anecdotes from your time with them that they can include in the letter.
- Any specific formatting and submission instructions provided by the graduate schools you are applying to.
- The deadline to submit their letter
- Your contact information
1. How important are grad school letters of recommendation?
Your grad school letter of recommendation is one of the most important application components that you will submit because it tells the admission committee how other professionals view you and what they think of your abilities. So, you must secure quality letters of recommendation if you want to improve your chances of getting into graduate school.
2. How many recommendations do I need to get into graduate school?
That will depend on your chosen program. Typically, graduate programs ask for two or three letters, but that varies greatly from one school to another, so always verify the requirements of the school you are interested in.
3. How long should my grad school letter of recommendation be?
It should be a one-page letter unless your chosen school requests something different.
4. Can friends write letters of recommendation for grad school?
It would be best if they didn't. You want your recommendation letter to come from an objective source that has worked with you or evaluated your work over a long period of time. Friends and family members usually don't fall in that category, so the admission board will think that they are biased.
5. Who should I ask for a grad school letter of recommendation?
Some graduate school programs will give you specific instructions for recommendation letters, so always verify those first. You should get a recommendation from individuals who know you well and worked with you long enough to talk about your skills and abilities using specific examples.
6. When should I ask for a grad school letter of recommendation?
It would be best if you asked as early as possible. We recommend that it be at least six to eight weeks before the letter is due so that your chosen writer has enough time to write a strong letter.
7. How should I ask for a grad school letter of recommendation?
Whenever possible, you should ask for a recommendation letter in person. However, if meeting face to face is not an option, you can craft a professional email and send it to your chosen writers.
8. What additional information should I give the person writing my letter of recommendation?
You should provide them with as much information about your grad school candidacy as possible. You can share a copy of your personal statement, grad school CV, and your transcripts, for example. Make sure they also have your contact information in case they need additional details.