Letters of recommendation are essential to your.
Most graduate programs–and many job opportunities–require letters of recommendation. Think it’s easy to get them? Don’t underestimate their importance. Even though your transcripts, test scores, and personal pleas are vital to getting into the top school or company, a glowing letter of recommendation can make up for years of below-par performance.
A recommendation provides information that isn’t found elsewhere on some gargantuan application. The best letters, written by a faculty member or one of your former superiors, attest to the personal qualities, accomplishments, and experiences that make you perfect for the program or job to which you’ve applied.
Who to Ask?
You may have to provide at least two letters of recommendation, but some places have been known to ask for three or more. Choosing your letter writers is often a difficult process. Consider faculty members, administrators,supervisors, and current and former employers. Those asked to write your letters should…
- Know you well enough to write with authority
- Know your work
- Describe your work positively
- Have a high opinion of you
- Know where you are applying
- Know your educational or career goals
- Be able to favorably compare you with your peers
- Be able to write a good letter
Of course, no one person is going to satisfy all of these criteria. Go for a set of letters that cover the wide range of your academic and scholastic skills, research abilities and experiences, and applied experiences (cooperative education, internships, and related work experiences).
Approaching Your Victim
When you approach people to write a letter of recommendation, ask them if they think they know you well enough to write something meaningful. Pay attention to their demeanor and body language. If you sense reluctance, don’t press the issue–ask someone else.
You can ensure your letters cover all bases by providing writers with all the necessary information. Don’t assume that they will remember every last thing about you. Make an appointment to speak with them and leave plenty of time to complete the assignment–three to four weeks at minimum. You might want to provide a file with your vital stats, including…
- Transcript or
- Admissions essays
- Coursework or classes you’ve taken with them
- Research experiences
- Internships and other applied experiences
- Honor societies to which you belong
- Awards you’ve won
- Work experience
- Professional goals
- Due date for the application
- Clean copies of the recommendation forms
And check back frequently with the people who are writing your letters of recommendation. Make sure that they will be done on time, but don’t nag them about it. If you learn one thing from this process, it’s to never burn your bridges!