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Choosing the Best Letters of Recommendation for Grad School

Choosing the Best Letters of Recommendation for Grad School

Going to grad school is a big decision to make. It requires a lot of effort and time. Applying for grad school can be overwhelming, and one of the most significant parts of your application is getting great letters of recommendation. You need recommendation letters to prove that you are a qualified candidate and possess the skills required to succeed in the program.

Why letters of recommendation are important?

Letters of recommendation provide grad school admissions committees with a third-party perspective on your personality, work ethic, skills, and potential to succeed. They serve as a qualitative measure of your ability to thrive in a graduate program. The letters indicate if you can handle the rigorous academic expectations and can contribute positively to the community.

Whose letters to choose?

When choosing letters of recommendation, it is essential to choose individuals who know you well and can speak to your strengths and weaknesses accurately. Choose individuals who know your academic and professional background, your character, and the work you have done. Professors, supervisors, and colleagues are often the most appropriate to ask for recommendations.

How to ask for a letter of recommendation?

You should ask for a letter of recommendation at least six weeks before the application deadline. Make sure to provide the person an updated copy of your resume, a statement of purpose, and an outline of the program requirements and deadlines. Make it easy for them to write the recommendation by reminding them of your accomplishments, goals, and why you have chosen the program.

What makes a great letter of recommendation?

A great letter of recommendation is one that showcases the individual’s strengths and abilities. The letter should be specific about the individual’s qualities and the contributions they have made. It should address how the individual will contribute to the program and what sets them apart from others. The letter should be well-written and demonstrate professionalism, credibility, and persuasive language.

How many letters of recommendation do you need?

Graduate programs vary, but most require at least three letters of recommendation. Make sure to check the program’s website to verify how many letters the program requires. You should also note if the program requires letters from individuals with specific backgrounds, such as academic or professional.

Should you waive your right to access letters of recommendation?

When applying to grad school, you will have to decide whether to waive your right to access the letters of recommendation. When you waive your right, it means that you will not be able to see the letters. Even though you are not required to waive your right, most admissions committees view students who waive their right as more confident and credible candidates.

What to do after receiving the letter of recommendation?

Once you have received the letter of recommendation, make sure to thank the person who wrote it. Do not forget to let them know of the outcome of your application. Update your resume by including the letter writer’s name and title. You can also ask them to be a reference for additional applications.


Letters of recommendation are an essential part of the graduate school application process. They provide the admissions committees with a third-party perspective on your potential to succeed in the program. When selecting individuals for recommendations, choose those who know you well and can speak to your strengths and weaknesses accurately. Also, remember to ask the person sufficiently ahead of the deadline and provide them with all the necessary information to make it easy for them to write the recommendation. Lastly, follow up with the person who wrote the letter and thank them for their time and effort.


Can family members write letters of recommendation for me?

It is not appropriate to use family members’ letters of recommendation, and most graduate programs do not accept them. Instead, choose individuals who can provide an objective perspective on your skills and abilities.

How long should my letters of recommendation be?

Most letters of recommendation are one page long. They should be concise, professional, and highlight the main qualities that make you an excellent candidate for the program.

Should I follow up with letter writers after submitting my application?

It is entirely appropriate to follow up with your letter writers after submitting your application. Thank them again for their time and effort in writing the letter for you.

What should I do if my letter writer does not meet the deadline?

If your letter writer does not meet the deadline, you should follow-up with them as soon as possible. Offer to provide additional information to make it easier for them to write the letter. If they still cannot meet the deadline, you may need to find someone else.

Can I write my letter of recommendation and have someone else sign it?

No, it is not appropriate to write your letter of recommendation. Admissions committees can spot self-written letters and will not take them seriously.

Should all my letters of recommendation be from academic institutions?

Not necessarily. It is more crucial that the letter writer can speak to your abilities and potential. So, a letter of recommendation from a supervisor or colleague may be more effective than one from an academic institution.

How should I address my letter writer?

It is appropriate to address your letter writer formally, using their title (Mr., Mrs., or Dr.), followed by their last name. If they prefer a more informal address, they will let you know.


[1] “How to Choose Your Recommenders”. The Princeton Review. Retrieved from
[2] “Letters of Recommendation for Graduate School”. Peterson’s. Retrieved from https:/
[3] “Letters of Recommendation”. MIT Career Advising and Professional Development. MIT. Retrieved from



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