for Students or Alumni Requesting Letters of Recommendation from Faculty
(adapted with permission from Department of History at Brown University
Writing letters of recommendation are an essential part of what faculty
do, because students depend upon them for jobs, professional schools,
fellowships, study abroad programs, and for many other opportunities.
What follows will help you get the best possible letters.
• Select faculty with whom you have worked closest. They usually
know you the best and can write vividly about your strengths.
• Faculty normally need at least three weeks notice to comply with
your request, even if they already have a letter on file, since they may
want to update that letter. Never assume that letters can be faxed or
e-mailed at the last second. Allow an equal amount of time for these requests
as you would for mailed letters.
• In your request to faculty, you might include a copy of your resume
and transcript (unofficial will do), as well as a copy of any statement
of purpose or essay, if required in the application. If no essay or statement
of purpose is required, include a paragraph or two explaining to the letter
writer what your purpose is in applying, what you hope to accomplish,
• Copies of past work done for the letter writer or even in another
class will be helpful to the letter writer.
• Make sure that you have filled out the waiver of confidentiality
agreement. Letters cannot be sent unless you have done this.
• Do not rely solely on e-mail when sending requests for letters,
and please ask before sending digital versions of your essays, applications,
transcripts, etc. Many faculty will prefer hardcopies of these materials.
• In almost every instance, a reference form has information to
be filled out by the applicant (e.g., your name, Social Security number,
e-mail address). Unquestionably this is your responsibility!
• Some faculty prefer (even require) that you provide them with
an addressed envelope. By supplying an accurately addressed envelope,
you are taking a key step toward assuring that your letter will be received
promptly by the graduate school, professional school, or agency to which
you have submitted an application.
YOU STILL HAVE QUESTIONS? You are not alone, rest assured. Ask
further questions! Most faculty are willing to talk with you (and some
are highly knowledgeable) about concerns that inevitably arise regarding
the complex process of submitting applications and requesting letters