Requesting Letters of Recommendation from Faculty Members
Faculty members are happy to write letters of recommendation, but please observe a few common courtesies:
- You should try to get to know the professors from whom you expect to request a letter of recommendation. Stop by their office hours and introduce yourself. Not only does this help a faculty member remember who you are, but it also enables the recommenders to write that you have discussed your plans with them. This indicates to the recipient of the letter that you are more to the professor than merely a name on a class roster or the recipient of a good grade.
- When asking for a recommendation via email, please ensure to write “Request for Recommendation” on the subject line. Professors usually attend to messages with subject headings like that first. A subject heading of “hi” won’t alert us to the time-sensitive nature of your message.
- Please ask professors a MINIMUM of two weeks before the letter is due, even if they have written on your behalf before. Do not expect them to drop all of their other obligations and prioritize your needs.
- Once your professors have agreed to write on your behalf, they usually will require the following items:
- A single, complete, and coherent list of instructions regarding all the letters you are requesting. The list should include for each letter:
- brief information about the nature of the position you are seeking;
- due date;
- delivery instructions (If it is an online recommendation, will the faculty member receive a prompt or are you providing an electronic address? If it is to be submitted as hard copy, should the faculty member mail it directly or do you need to send it with your application materials?);
- the identity of the person or group to be addressed in the letter (e.g. “Dear Fellowship Committee”) and the address of the institution. Even if submitted online, a professional letter includes the address of the person being addressed.
- PLEASE DO NOT SEND MULTIPLE INSTRUCTIONS IN A SERIES OF EMAIL MESSAGES. Keep in mind that professors receive large numbers of emails every day. Your list of instructions will help them keep track of all of these personal “Embark” notifications, etc. It will also serve as a “check-off” list as professors write multiple letters on your behalf.
- An up-to-date resume.
- An unofficial copy of your transcripts (this will help remind teachers of the specific quarter in which you enrolled in their classes. It is also a useful source of information to flesh out particular types of letters (e.g. “s/he has done well in a broad range of courses….”).
- A brief paragraph explaining your reasons for applying for a fellowship, grad school, law school, etc. This will ensure that faculty members do not contradict what you are writing in your applications.