Letters of Recomendation

When applying for admission to graduate schools, students frequently ask instructors and advisors to write letters of recommendation. These letters require that the writer assess personal qualities as well as performance-related abilities and potentials. Here are some suggestions to help the writer do the best job that he or she can.

Provide Adequate Information. In addition to discussing the situation with the recommender, you should provide the following information in writing:

  • Your name, address, phone number, and date
  • The nature of the job or specific graduate program for which you are applying
  • Due date for the letter, as well as the mailing address or URL for submission of the letter
  • Expected date of graduation
  • Title, grade, and semester for each course taken with the writer of the recommendation
  • If known, your Graduate Record Examination scores
  • Academic honors and awards received
  • Research experience and any resulting publications or paper presentations
  • Psychology-related work experience
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Statement of goals and career-related interests

In addition, please complete the portions of recommendation forms that ask for information to be supplied by the applicant.  Your recommender may also require you to complete a Student Reference Request and FERPA Release form (this form, which relates to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, is maintained by the Registrar's Office). 

Be Considerate of the Recommender.  Always allow the recommender adequate time to write the letter (i.e., approximately one month). Never seek a recommendation for a job or school in which you are not genuinely interested.  Be courteous: Let the recommender know if you were accepted.  

Confidentiality.  Often students are asked to indicate whether the recommendation is to be confidential or non-confidential. Most college faculty members are reluctant to write non-confidential letters and most graduate schools and personnel departments give little weight to nonconfidential recommendations.

An additional useful source of information about recommendation letters (and graduate school in general) is Dr. M. Lloyd’s web site, How to Get Good Letters of Recommendation.