The Graduate School Letter of Recommendation Form
Most graduate school applications provide applicants with a specific letter of recommendation form to be completed by faculty. The form is either available online as a downloadable pdf document or an integral component of the online application form. In some cases faculty’s email are submitted as part of the application and the graduate school will contact the faculty for your recommendations. The Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS) and American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) provide their own program-specific letter of recommendation forms. Visit the Law School Admission Information website and Medical School Admission Information website for information about the LSDAS and AMCAS formats.
The FERPA waiver
The form offers the applicant the opportunity to waive the rights associated with the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). By signing the FERPA waiver (or checking the box on an on-line form), the applicant surrenders the right to ever see the letter, whether the applicant is admitted or not. If you sign the FERPA waiver, the graduate program will understand that the person writing the letter of recommendation is being honest and candid in the letter, knowing that you will never see the letter. Therefore, letters of recommendation accompanied by a FERPA waiver signature carry greater validity in the eyes of graduate program selection committees.
When to Ask Professors
As you consider when to ask professors for letters of recommendation, be mindful of the application deadline (the date by which the letter must reach the graduate program) and how incredibly busy your professors are with preparing lessons, conducting research, correcting papers/exams, and other non-teaching related responsibilities, such as curriculum revision and search committee work to hire new faculty. Also consider the reality that you’re one of many students seeking a letter of recommendation. For all of these reasons, it’s important to give professors ample time to write the letter of recommendation. If possible, ask them early in the semester (at least two months in advance), before they are consumed with correcting mid-term and final exams.
How to Ask Professors
You are encouraged to request a letter of recommendation in writing. As you can see from the sample letter of request below, the student provides the professor with the graduate schools’ letter of recommendation forms, a list of schools to which the student is applying, directions for how to submit the recommendation, a summary of courses taken with the professor, examples of larger projects and papers completed for the courses taken with the professor, the grades earned in the courses, the student’s GPA, and a summary of extracurricular and work activities. Professors usually welcome all of this information as it helps remind them of your achievements, which makes it easier for them to reference the achievements in the letter they write. If you do not provide this information, you are counting on professors to accurately recollect who you are and what you accomplished in their classes. If you prompt their memory with specific examples, you enhance their ability to cite specific examples of your accomplishments. And, a letter of recommendation containing specific examples is a stronger letter of recommendation.
Sample Letter of Request
Sept. 15, 2012
Dear Dr. Rankin,
I’m writing to ask if you would be willing to write me a supportive letter of recommendation for my graduate school applications to the counselor education programs at the University of Maine, the University of Southern Maine, and the University of New Hampshire. The application deadline for each school is February 15. I have enclosed a recommendation form required by each application and signed the FERPA waiver indicating that I surrender my right to see the letter at any time.
As you may recall, I have taken two courses with you: Child Counseling and Psychopathology and Introduction to Counseling and Personality. I earned an A- in each course and wrote my 10-page final papers on The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Children with Bi-Polar Disorder and The Influence of Adlerian Psychology on the Work of Dreikurs. Currently, my GPA is 3.47.
I also have enclosed a copy of my resume so you can see the extracurricular and work experience I have amassed during my four years at UMF. I think my part-time work as a Behavioral Specialist I for Atlantic Home Health Services has given me useful direct service experience. My clients have included children ages 7 to 12 with Opposition Defiant Disorder, ADHD, Autism, and mild mental retardation. Working one-to-one with these children has given me the opportunity to move from theory to practice with the concepts I learned in your Child Counseling and Psychopathology course.
Thank your for considering my request for letters of recommendation. If you would like further information, please feel welcome to contact me at x7232 or email@example.com.
(Jack’s signature goes here)
Asking for a letter of recommendation
Our recommendation? Read these tips and getting your next letter of recommendation will be a breeze.
Asking for a letter of recommendation? Try these tips.
Whether you’re looking for a new job, applying for admission to graduate school or vying for a scholarship, chances are you’re going up against competition—and plenty of it. You need to find a way to stand out. One way to do so is with a strong letter of recommendation.
Of course, the only way to get a letter is to ask for it—the prospect of which likely fills you with dread. What will she say? Will you annoy him with your request? Is there anything you can you offer in return? Worse, what if the boss you thought loved you secretly hated you?
It’s OK to feel nervous, but believe it or not, most people will be happy to write something on your behalf.
“With people who have worked with me in the past, if they ask me for a letter, I am more than willing to write them one,” says Peggy McKee, CEO of Dallas-based Career Confidential. “But If I was happy with them, I would like to do anything I could to help them going forward.”
See, it’s not that difficult! But if you’re still hesitant, use this approach to get the letter of recommendation that you need.
Just pop the question
Yes, it may sound simplistic, but the truth is the way to ask for a letter of recommendation is to ask.
“A lot of students feel anxiety asking for a letter of recommendation; what they should realize is that we get asked all of the time!” says Jessi Franko, an adjunct communications professor at Rider University and Mercer Community College in New Jersey. “They are definitely not the first person to ask and definitely not the last. I get asked to write recommendation letters for current students, former students and even colleagues at least twice a month.”
Rather than apologizing or beating around the bush, ask the question straightforwardly, noting the purpose for which you need the letter and the deadline.
You say: “I’m applying for an internship, and I need to include two letters of recommendation. Would you be willing to write one for me? I’d need it by the 20th."
Suggest some talking points
Don’t just ask, “Can you write me a letter of recommendation?” Be sure to mention what information you’d like the letter to include.
“If somebody is trying to apply for a certain type of job, I would recommend that they try to ask that the reference letter includes specific examples of work that they had done in that field, or specific examples skills and abilities that they have that would be relevant to that field,” says Jill Saverine, senior vice president of human resources for Stamford, Connecticut-based Aircastle.
You say: “Thank you for agreeing to write a letter of recommendation for me. I was hoping you could mention the role I played in our big campaign and how my blog post helped increase our company’s site traffic.”
Be prepared to write the letter yourself
Let’s be honest, we’re all busy these days. Someone may be willing to write you a letter of recommendation, but feel crunched for time. If that happens, they might ask that you write the letter for them. This is OK. They’ve still offered to help you and you have your signed letter of recommendation. It’s a win-win!
Need help writing it? Use our sample recommendation letter template.
“Put together a few statements about what you’ve done, what you can do and some of the best things that you did while you worked there, maybe mention a particular story about something,” McKee says. “Send it to them, let them choose what they want to pick and keep and put their little signature at the bottom and you’re done!”
You say: “I know this is a busy time of year for you. If you don’t have time to write it, perhaps I could write something for you to review and if it looks all right, you could sign it?”
Once you have the letter, do this next
A strong recommendation letter is an excellent counterpart to your resume. But neither will do you any good just sitting on your computer. Want to put them to good use? Join Monster today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—all tailored to different jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Pull them in with the resume, and use your recommendation letter to seal the deal.