How many recommendations do I need?
A minimum of 3
Whom should I ask?
First, think about professors and advisors who know you well – people you have spoken with not just about course material, but about deeper questions of concern, especially questions relating to your research, their research, applications of what you’ve been learning at Wash U, your intellectual passions and goals, etc.
- Your major advisor
- Professors in your field who have had you in class
- Your thesis advisor
- Professors in a related field who have had you in class
- Professors from any class that you’ve done well in and who also know you
- A professor you’ve done research with
- Your four-year advisor
How do I ask for a recommendation?
- This becomes easier if you have already established rapport and engaged your professor and/or advisor in conversations about general questions that matter to both of you (ie: if you already see your professor and/or advisor as a real person!)
- For professors you know, but not well, set up an appointment to discuss graduate school. Let the professor know you are thinking about applying, and then ask if he/she would be willing to write a strong recommendation for you.
- For November – January deadlines ask in early to mid October and ask your recommenders when they would like to actually receive the recommendations. Some prefer to have them very early, some do not.
When should I ask for recommendations?
- Make sure you know about Interfolio on the Career Center Website. Pay special attention to the recommendation cover sheet. Make sure to sign the waiver.
- There are different types of recommendations, depending upon your plans: General graduate school, specific recommendations for graduate schools, recommendations for jobs.
- ALWAYS ask for recommendations before you graduate, regardless of when you think you might want to apply.
- Talk about having your recommender update the recommendation in a year or so and sending periodic updates.
- Give your recommender a specific deadline.
What to give your professors once they’ve agreed to write a recommendation for you:
You will want to present your professors with all the materials they will need to write you a strong and detailed recommendation. Keeping in mind that they will probably be getting multiple requests, here is what you can do to ensure that they are thinking very well of you when they sit down to write this very important letter:
- A cover page that lists
- all of the schools and programs you are applying to. Do not abbreviate school or program names and state the degree program you are applying to (ie: Ph.D. or M.A.).
- application deadlines (bold these)
- whether or not the application is an online or paper submission
- If paper submission, write either “to be picked up” or “send directly to school”
- A couple of sentences for each specific school and program about your reasons for applying.
- A copy of your statement of purpose. It does not have to be your final draft (just make sure to let your recommenders know this!)
- A resume that covers only what you’ve done in college
- A copy of your student record printout
- Any recommendation forms, with waiver portion completed, that will need to be sent by mail.
- Make sure to ask whether your recommender wants all of this as hard copies or electronically.