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How to Request Strong Letters of Recommendation for Grad School


Table of Contents:


Whom Should You Ask to Write a Letter of Recommendation?

How and When Should You Reach Out for a Letter of Recommendation?

What Makes a Perfect Recommendation Letter?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)



writing a recommendation letter


Are you considering applying to grad school? One of the key components of your application is a strong recommendation letter. This document can provide admissions committees with valuable insights into your abilities, skills, and potential as a student.

In this article, I will discuss the process of asking and obtaining a good recommendation letter. We will explore who you should ask to, when and how to make the request. Additionally, we will delve into the key elements that make a recommendation letter impressive, including specific examples and details that can help showcase your potential as a student.

By the end of this article, you will have a clear understanding of how to secure well-written letter of recommendation that will bolster your grad school application. Let's begin!

Whom Should You Ask to Write a Letter of Recommendation for Grad School?

When applying to grad school, strong letters of recommendation are essential. Ideally, you should reach out to your professors, thesis advisors, and internship supervisors, who can highlight your academic abilities, research/work experience, and potential for success in a graduate program. Professors who have taught you in relevant courses and know your strengths and weaknesses are great candidates. Thesis advisors who have worked closely with you and can speak to your research abilities and potential are also excellent choices. Furthermore, internship supervisors are an option to consider, because they have seen you in a professional setting and can attest to your skills and work ethic. Lastly, remember that when considering whom to ask for a letter of recommendation, it's important to always choose academics and professionals who can provide specific examples and insights into your abilities and potential. This will help admissions committees gain a better understanding of your qualifications and determine if you are a good fit for their program.

How and When Should You Reach Out for a Letter of Recommendation for Grad School?

As your grad school application deadline gets closer, it's crucial to approach this process strategically and thoughtfully. As you can image, this also applies to requesting, obtaining and submitting a successful recommendation letter. Let's discover how and when you should do this.

Requesting a Recommendation Letter

When requesting a recommendation letter from a current teacher or supervisor, being respectful, professional and ahead of time can be life saving. You can start by sending an email or scheduling a meeting to discuss your request with the recommender in person. Be sure to clearly explain why you are applying to grad school, what program you are applying to, and why you believe they would be a good fit to write a letter on your behalf. It's also important to provide them with any necessary information or materials, such as your resume, personal statement, and specific details about the program and its requirements. Finally, be sure to express your gratitude for their time and consideration in assisting you with your application.

Recommendation Letter Timeline

What about the timeline you should follow to obtaining your recommendation letter? First and foremost, it's crucial to communicate openly with the person who will be writing the letter. This doesn't only include discussing your best characteristics, passions, and achievements, but you could also talk about setting a deadline for when the letter needs to be completed.

Furthermore, requesting the letter at least one month prior the application deadline is very important because it gives the writer enough time to craft a thoughtful and personalized letter. After the initial request, check in periodically to ensure the letter is on track for completion. Once the letter is received, students should plan to have plenty of time to review it before the application deadline to avoid any last-minute complications.

What Makes a Perfect Recommendation Letter?

letters of recommendation

As already explained, an outstanding recommendation letter can make a significant impact on a graduate school application. If you are wondering what does this practically mean, here are some key factors that make a recommendation letter stand out in the eyes of graduate school admissions committees.

Professional and Academic Strengths

When asking for a recommendation letter for grad school, it's important to choose someone who can highlight your professional and academic strengths. A good recommendation letter should showcase specific skills, talents, and experiences that are relevant to your target program. For example, if you are applying to a business program, your recommender might highlight your strong analytical skills, leadership abilities, or ability to work well in teams.

Additionally, a good recommendation letter should include examples of your accomplishments that demonstrate these abilities and strengths. For instance, if your recommender is discussing your leadership skills, they could mention a specific project where you successfully led a team to achieve a significant goal.

Overall, when requesting a recommendation letter, make sure that it brightens your skills, talents, and experiences that are applicable to the specific grad school program you are applying to. This will help the admissions committee get a clear understanding of your abilities and academic potential for success in their program.

Your Personal Qualities

Students are not just their skills and professional achievements, they are individuals with deep identities and personal qualities. Admission committees knows this well and want to get to know you holistically. That's why a good recommendation letter should provide specific examples and anecdotes that highlight qualities such as adaptability, compassion, determination, leadership, and integrity.

Moreover, these personal qualities are important to showcase how you may be able to adapt to challenging situations in your chosen graduate program. For example, if you have a history of volunteering, it shows your compassion and dedication to helping others, qualities which you can also apply to your academic community. Additionally, determination in overcoming challenges demonstrates that you will be able to pursue your degree with success, even in the face of intense workload.

As you select recommenders, consider individuals who can speak to these qualities and provide specific examples from your interactions with them. By showcasing these personal traits in your recommendation letters, you will provide the admissions committee with a well-rounded view of how you will contribute to their program.

Polite and Inspiring Language

When requesting a recommendation letter for grad school, it's important to ensure that the letter is both polite and inspiring. Polite language in the letter shows respect for the recipient and reflects positively on the applicant. Additionally, using inspiring language can have a positive impact on the reader and make the recommendation more persuasive, memorable and impactful. Once again, it is important that you choose recommenders who can speak to your abilities and who can make your letter stand out through kind and at the same time impactful language.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

After reading all this information, you may still have some doubts on the topic. In this final section of the article, we'll answer some of the most frequently asked questions about grad school motivation letters. Let's dive in.

What Information Should I Share With the Person Who Is Writing The Letter?

When asking someone to write a letter of recommendation for you, you need to provide them with relevant information that will help them craft a strong and effective letter. Start by sharing your personal strengths and specific achievements that you would like the writer to mention in the letter. This will give them a clear understanding of your qualifications and accomplishments. As we mentioned earlier, do not forget to discuss your best personality traits, such as determination, leadership and any specific value your are passionate about.

Additionally, it's important to provide any relevant details about the target university or program you are applying for. This can include the specific qualities or skills the program values, as well as any specific goals or aspirations you have related to the program.

Should I Use the Same Letter for All my Grad School l Applications?

As for your personal essay, CV and other application documents, it is essential to obtain a tailored letter of recommendation for each program you are applying to. Using the same letter for all applications does not allow the recommender to customize the letter to highlight why you are a good fit for each specific program. By ensuring each letter is tailored to the individual school, the recommender can address key attributes and experiences that each school values.

It's crucial to provide specific examples and details in the letter to demonstrate your qualifications and fit for each program. Admissions committees want to see evidence of your capabilities and potential contributions, so the letter should effectively showcase your strengths in relation to the specific program's requirements.

Key attributes and experiences that each school values should be included in the letter, and it should address those specific points. By following these guidelines, you can maximize your chances of securing admission to the program of your choice. Therefore, it is important to request a tailored letter of recommendation for each grad school application to accurately represent your qualifications and fit for each program.


In conclusion, obtaining a good recommendation letter for grad school is a crucial step in the application process. By carefully selecting the right recommenders and politely providing them with the necessary information,  applicants can greatly increase their chances of being accepted into their dream program. It's important to approach the process with a positive attitude and be proactive in seeking out the best letters of recommendation possible.

Ultimately, the recommendation letter is a mirror of your qualifications, capabilities, and potential as a student, so it's worth the effort to ensure that it is a strong and compelling endorsement. By taking the time to build strong relationships with mentors, professors, and employers, you can secure excellent recommendation letters that will help you stand out among wide pools of candidates.

So, to all the aspiring grad students out there, don't be afraid to ask for recommendation letters and put in the work to obtain quality endorsements. With determination and a positive mindset, you can confidently approach this aspect of the application process and increase your chances of pursuing your dream grad school program.

Good luck!

Happy admitted student

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