If you are wondering how to get into grad school without recommendation letters, then you are not alone. Many people are wary of asking former professors, employers, or colleagues for letters of recommendation, even though it is a near-universal application requirement for fields like medicine and law and also a requirement of any graduate-level program. But there are exceptions. Just like , there are several graduate-level programs around the US that do not ask applicants for letters of recommendation, so you don’t have to read over .
This article will list those programs and give you tips on how to ask for letters of recommendation if you are struggling to find referees.
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Appalachian State University is a public university in North Carolina that asks all applicants to submit at least three references, but these references can come from a variety of sources. ASU uses a centralized application service for its graduate school. All new applicants must submit their applications via this online portal, regardless of the program they are applying to, but their program may have other supplemental application requirements.
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The basic application requirements for the ASU Graduate School include:
- Resume or CV
- Unofficial transcripts
- Three references
- Application fee
There may be other application requirements specific to your program, but the three references the school alludes to can come from various sources. You can ask for character references from people who know you well (excluding family members) or ask former or current employers. Academic sources are preferred, but the school makes this accommodation knowing that many of its students may not be able to produce them.
Bellevue University is a blended online and physical institution that offers over 25 different master’s-level programs and one PhD program, none of which require applicants to submit letters of recommendation. The University also uses a centralized application form for students to apply to the school’s various graduate programs.
The main admission requirements for all master’s programs are:
- Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university
- 2.5 GPA during your bachelor’s degree
- 3.0 GPA during your master’s degree, if applicable
The two doctorate-level programs offered at Bellevue also do not require letters of recommendation. The two programs – a PhD in Human Capital Management and a Doctorate of Business Administration – do not even require that students submit GRE or GMT scores. All applicants to either of these programs must have the following:
- A master’s (for PhD), or MBA (for the DBA)
- Official transcripts for all undergraduate and graduate coursework
- GPA of 3.0 for all previous coursework
- Five years of professional experience (PhD and DBA)
- A resume
- A 1000-word personal statement answering a set a questions
The school holds accreditation with various accrediting agencies responsible for overseeing training and education of several professions. Bellevue is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE), Global Accreditation Center for Project Management Education Programs (GAC), and Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
Brigham Young University is a Mormon university that accepts students from all backgrounds for its over 90 graduate-level programs, ranging from master’s to PhD programs. Applicants to any of the school’s various master’s or PhD programs need to submit a few forms of documentation like:
- A bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college
- A cumulative GPA of 3.0 for US applicants, a comprehensive GPA of 3.0 for international students
- Official or unofficial transcripts
- Ecclesiastical endorsement
- Application fee
The “ecclesiastical endorsement” is a reference from a religious leader that the school requires, along with an Honor Code Commitment from all applicants. Students who are Latter-Day Saints must submit a reference from an ecclesiastical interview with an elder and stake bishop. Non-LDS students may receive an ecclesiastical endorsement from a religious leader of their faith and undergo an interview with a university chaplain.
This university offers several different degree programs, all of which have their own admission requirements, but some do not ask for recommendation letters. CSU also uses a centralized application portal for all of its graduate programs, but every program has its own requirements that you need to check if you want to know .
The programs at CSU that do not require a recommendation letter include the Master of English program, which requires 10 to 20 pages of coursework completed during your undergraduate degree, along with a term paper from an upper-level English course and the Master of Arts in Economics, which requires several prerequisite courses in microeconomics, macroeconomics, calculus and statistics, but no letters of recommendation.
The other academic requirements are specific to each program but comprise the typical graduate school requirements like GPA, GRE, or GMT scores, letters of recommendation (program specific), statement of purpose, and resume. You should look over to write a stellar resume if you have never written one yet.
at Troy University, the school offers many different admission tracks for students, some of which do not require applicants to submit recommendation letters. The first way students to the graduate program can skip over the recommendation letter requirement is by having a master’s degree. If you have a master’s degree and are applying to another master’s degree program at Troy, you do not have to submit letters of recommendation or GRE test scores.
The school also allows students who do not have a high GPA but who have completed a bachelor’s degree at an accredited university or college to apply for conditional admission to a master’s degree program. This track is for anyone who is not sure . Students can be admitted conditionally, which means they only take 9 credit hours per semester, but they must achieve a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher at the end of the year. If they have achieved the requisite GPA, they will be admitted to the unconditional track and removed from the conditional program. Students who do not meet the GPA requirement after one year on the conditional track will be removed from the graduate school and be allowed to reapply after one year if they have taken steps to improve their GPA.
Additionally, applicants to any of the master’s programs in the school’s Honors Graduate Admission program also have the recommendation letter requirement waived. But these students must meet other admission requirements to qualify for this admission track. There are also a select number of degree programs that participate in the Honors track, mainly Master of Science degrees in subjects like Criminal Justice, Economics, International Relations, and Social Work.
If students apply with a GPA of 3.6 or higher to any of the Honors Graduate Admission programs, they do not have to submit standardized test scores from the GRE or similar, nor do they have to submit recommendation letters. However, the two PhD programs at Troy do require letters of recommendation, and there are no conditions or stipulations that would waive this requirement.
The University of Michigan has over 20 different master’s-level and doctorate programs for graduate students at both the Dearborn and Ann Arbor campuses, with multiple joint degrees and sub-specialties within different schools. The admission requirements vary between the programs, but all applicants must submit two applications: one to the Rackham Graduate School and one to the individual program.
The Rackham Graduate School does not require students to submit a letter of recommendation. The RGS only requires applicants to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited US or Canadian college or university and English language proficiency if they are international students or earned their degrees at a foreign school.
But the fact that the RGS does not require applicants to submit letters of recommendation does not mean that your program will not require them. You must check the requirements of each program that you want to apply to and make sure whether they do or do not require letters of recommendation.
Many of the degree programs do require letters of recommendation, but a few select programs do not. For example, the College of Engineering’s Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering program does not require students to submit letters of recommendation for the three master’s degree programs it offers, but it does require they have a bachelor’s degree, a minimum 3.4 GPA, and have completed the requisite courses.
Walden University is a private, for-profit online university that offers several different degree opportunities within programs like Criminal Justice, Business and Management, and Information Technology. There are around 40 different programs with 175 specializations within each subject, all of them delivered online.
The school also offers several professional development courses and has affiliations with several private employers, so you do not have to struggle with The school also holds the distinction of giving out the most health care administration master’s degrees, Master of Science in Nursing, and public health doctorate degrees in the US, according to the National Center for Education Statistics ().
All graduate programs have the same admission requirements, which are having a bachelor’s degree from a recognized US or Canadian college or university and submitting your official transcripts from all your previous undergraduate coursework. The school does not require any other supporting documentation like letters of recommendation.
The school is accredited by all the major accrediting agencies for specific professions.
It holds accreditation with:
- The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
- The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
- The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
- Master of Social Work is Council of Social Workers Education (CSWE)
- Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
The University of North Carolina – Charlotte is a public university that offers a myriad of graduate-level programs, along with several graduate certificate courses, the latter of which do not often require a letter of recommendation. There are some master’s courses that do not require a letter of recommendation but ask applicants for a reference (professional or academic) who can verify their application and qualifications.
Many STEM subjects do not require letters of recommendation, like the Master of Science in Applied Energy and Electromechanical Engineering, which only requires applicants to submit their GPA (must be above 3.0), GRE scores, official transcripts, and completed coursework in subjects like Statistics and Mathematics.
Similarly, the MBA program at UNC also does not require students to submit letters of recommendation, but instead asks for other elements including:
- Bachelor’s degree from the US or Canada
- GMAT or GRE scores
- A resume or CV
- English proficiency scores for international applicants
Purdue University Global is a for-profit branch campus of Purdue University in Indiana and offers several online graduate courses. The school’s main demographic is professionals and adult learners who want to add to their credentials and enhance their professional profile. Purdue University Global uses the , such as offering fully online courses and providing discounts for both military members and employees of partner organizations who want to study at the school.
The school offers 30 different programs across a wide range of disciplines, from Criminal Justice to Nursing. Every discipline has various sub-specialties that also offer distinct degree options from a master’s to a graduate certificate. For example, the Criminal Justice program offers a graduate certificate in Crime Scene Technician, and a Master of Science in Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
The school only requires applicants to have a bachelor’s degree from a recognized American or Canadian college or university. But applicants to any master’s-level program must have a cumulative GPA of 2.5. Students with a GPA lower than the cut-off can still apply, as the school considers other aspects of your application. You must also submit all your official transcripts; you can submit unofficial transcripts while you secure the official ones, but they must be submitted before you matriculate or if the school requests them.
This university’s mission is to expand access to higher education for everyone, and it achieves this goal by not requiring applicants to submit letters of recommendation. The school does ask students to submit their official or unofficial transcripts, along with a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university.
There are also individual requirements for programs, including personal statements, resumes or CVs, and other writing samples like a . The school does have one admission requirement, which is that students have a 2.75 GPA or higher. However, students who do not meet the GPA requirement can still apply and be placed on provisional acceptance.
The only way to get into grad school without letters of recommendation is to apply to a program that does not require them. They are difficult to find and require a lot of research, but they do exist. But whether the program you are applying to requires a letter of recommendation or not should not be what determines whether you go to grad school.
If you want to go to graduate school but are not willing to actively seek out required letters of recommendation, then you should question whether graduate school is right for you. It is true that asking professors, or other faculty members who only have faint recollections of you can seem daunting. But if you are truly dedicated to either obtaining a master’s or going all the way to earn a PhD, then asking former professors, colleagues, or employers for a letter of recommendation should be a miniscule step toward completing your goals.
If you are not sure about how to ask professors or faculty members for letters of recommendation, you can follow these steps:
1. Be Memorable
Even before you ask for a letter of recommendation, if you have decided to apply to graduate school, then you need to start actively participating in class so that your professors remember you. Professors are more willing to write a letter for a student they remember, but most importantly, remember as being an active participant in class discussions.
Your academic performance also plays a role in whether your professors remember you. But high marks and successfully passing your exams cannot replace a concrete memory of you speaking up in class, asking pertinent questions, or visiting your professor during office hours and having a conversation with them.
Increasing your visibility for professors is beneficial in many ways. Not only will your professors remember you and be more willing to write you a letter, the letter itself will be genuine and honestly reflect their assessment of you as an engaged and intellectually curious student.
2. Tell Them Why You Want to Go to Grad School
Another way you can build rapport and eventually ask a professor for a grad school recommendation letter is by telling them that you want to go to grad school. You can do this indirectly by asking them about graduate school and whether your career, academic, or professional goals require another degree and a commitment of one or two years of your life.
By asking your professors about graduate school, you automatically demonstrate your dedication by wanting to know all about the rigors and requirements of a master’s or PhD. Asking their advice on where you should apply, which program or school is most germane to your goals, or will reap its own benefits.
3. Bring Your Transcripts, Grades, or Other Application Essays
Making yourself memorable to a current professor is useful, but what if you have to ask a professor who does not remember you? If that is the case, you can bring your supporting documents, some of which you will submit with your application, like your transcripts, a list of schools where you want to go, your , personal statements, or other written materials.
Presenting your referee with these documents is an impartial way for them to assess the strength of your application and academic background. You can show professors what you have achieved in the years since they last taught you so that they can write a letter that is true to your accomplishments; a letter that is vague and unsubstantial will hurt you more than help.
Keep in mind that you can also learn . If you don’t have many references (maybe you worked in one place for your entire university career; missed out on in-person encounters with professors during the global health crisis), you can always create a model that individuals you know less well can add to and sign.
If you are thinking about going to graduate school and are not sure how to get in without letters of recommendation, then the list of schools and programs above can help. However, while there is nothing wrong with enrolling in a graduate program that does not require letters of recommendation – professionals, mature students, and applicants with families may find not having to submit a letter as an advantage – you should choose a program based on your academic and professional interests, not simply because it does not require a letter of recommendation.
1. Why do schools ask for letters of recommendation?
Medical and law schools, as well as graduate-level programs, require letters of recommendation to objectively confirm your qualifications and past achievements. Letters from professional or academic sources give admissions committee members insight into how you’ve conducted yourself in the past and whether you would be a good fit for their program.
2. Do I have to submit letters of recommendation?
It depends on your program. A majority of high-level graduate courses, medical, law, and business schools do require applicants to submit them. You can apply to a program that does not require them if you do not want to ask a former professor or you feel that too much time has passed.
3. How many letters of recommendation letters do I have to submit?
Again, it depends on the program. A general range is a minimum of one letter and a maximum of three, but that range is not universal.
4. Who should write my letters of recommendation?
are often written by practicing physicians, former professors, and something called a pre-professional health committee comprising many different faculty members who write one letter collectively. But the letter writers should be determined by the program you are applying to, which often ask for letters from former professors or instructors.
5. Can people I know personally write my recommendation letters?
The general rule is that family members or people who know you personally should NOT write your recommendation letters. However, there are exceptions. Some schools and programs may let you submit a letter from a family member who is a professional in the field you are applying to (lawyer, doctor, or academic who is related to you). Other schools may let you include personal letters of reference but still ask you for letters from non-family members who are academic sources.
6. When should I ask for a letter of recommendation?
You should ask as early as possible to give your letter writer time to draft the letter. You should inform your letter writer of all relevant deadlines, so they know when they have to submit. But you want to leave as much time as possible to write an outstanding letter while also giving you time to gather the other parts of your application.
7. How do I ask for a letter of recommendation?
You can ask for a letter of recommendation in a variety of ways. Many of the schools listed above use a centralized, online application service that lets you enter your letter writers’ email or contact information, so when you submit your application, they are notified via email that you requested a letter. You can also ask your referees directly by reaching out to them via email or phone and explaining to them why you want the letter and for what program or field of study.
8. What should be included in my letter of recommendation?
The contents of a letter of recommendation depend on the program you are applying to and whether it has specific requirements. But, in general, letter writers are supposed to relate why you would be a good fit for this program, what about you stands out over other candidates, and what you have done to demonstrate your dedication.