Guidelines for Requesting a Letter of Recommendation for Graduate Programs

If you’re considering asking me to write a Letter of Recommendation (LOR) for a graduate program, please be aware of these essential guidelines:

Timing and Preparation

  • Advance Notice: I require a minimum of 30 days’ notice prior to the first application deadline.
  • Complete Application Packet: A request for an LOR must be accompanied by a full application packet, which includes:
    • An up-to-date resume.
    • Your most recent transcript.
    • A well-crafted Statement of Purpose.
    • A list of the schools and programs to which you are applying.

If you cannot provide these materials at least 30 days before the first deadline, I will not be able to write the letter.

Quality of the Letter

  • Acquaintance Level: The strength of the LOR is directly related to how well I know the applicant.
    • Minimal Acquaintance: If our interaction was limited to a single class or academic term where you performed well, my ability to write a detailed and impactful letter is limited. Such letters are typically brief and less impactful.
    • Extensive Interaction: If we have had multiple interactions (e.g., you were a teaching assistant, I was your mentor, you attended multiple courses I taught, etc.), the letter will likely be more substantial and compelling.
  • Experience: The strength of the LOR is also proportional to the experience itself. If I worked with you in a way that was not a positive experience for me such as you disappeared for a month or were just unpleasant or unprofessional these will not yield strong letters.

Before asking me to write a letter, consider whether I am familiar enough with your academic and professional achievements to write a strong recommendation. Feel free to discuss this with me for an honest assessment.

Considerations for Research-Focused Programs

  • Research Background: While I hold a PhD, I am primarily a practitioner and not actively involved in academic research. This is an important consideration because:
    • PhD Programs: For PhD applications, especially at top-tier universities, a recommendation from an active researcher will carry more weight than one from a practitioner like me.