How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation for Grad School | Guide 2023

Your graduate school application may stand out from the crowd with a great letter of reference from a professor, supervisor, or colleague.

Ensure that the people submitting your letters of recommendation are acquainted with your skills, accomplishments, and traits.

And, you will send your preferred reference a formal, written request with specifics to help with writing the reference letter.

In this piece, we explain how to ask for and get a reference letter for graduate school and give a sample request to help you create your own.

What is a Recommendation Letter?

A letter of recommendation is written by a professional or academic reference to testify to your talents, character characteristics, and attitude for the desired job or program.

Additionally, it may help you get financial aid or a career as a teaching or research assistant at your graduate school.

When applying for graduate school, you usually submit the letter along with other application materials.

See also: How to Write a Recommendation Letter for a Student | Step Guide

How Do I Ask for a Letter of Recommendation for Graduate School?

You should provide as much information about yourself as possible so that the people you ask may write insightful letters of recommendation.

The phases that follow will teach you how to supply your reference with the information they need to produce a spectacular reference letter:

1. Determine who will receive your letter.

The majority of graduate schools need two to four letters of recommendation per application, although some may want simply letters from professors, employers, or both.

Make a list of a few people you often engage with at work or school, such as your professor, research supervisor, internship director, or job supervisor.

If you’re a first-year student, you may ask a few instructors or an academic adviser to write your letters. If you aren’t currently enrolled in college, you may have your supervisor and a coworker write your notes.

You might also consider contacting the club president or a volunteer organizer for recommendations.

Here are some ideas to think about when considering who to ask for a letter of recommendation for graduate school:

  • Someone who is acquainted with you. Consider the persons you’ve spent time with, who are aware of your career goals and have a solid rapport.
  • People who have known you for a long time. Consider persons you’ve known for a year or more in various settings, such as your professor, club president, work supervisor, or project manager.
  • Someone who can explain how your special skills fit into the curriculum. Consider the persons who can best articulate the characteristics that will allow you to flourish in graduate school and your career.
  • Someone who can tell amazing stories about you. Consider the individuals who are aware of your greatest achievements or moments in which you have shown a high level of initiative, devotion, or teamwork.
  • One who can communicate effectively. Consider who is most likely to send a letter on your behalf that is both compelling and assertive. Individuals who write excellent letters of recommendation for graduate school are more compassionate, organized, and enthusiastic than others.

If you are a new graduate or have limited work experience, consider asking for references from the following people:

  • Professors with whom you’ve taken two or more courses
  • Academic advisers
  • Faculty members with whom you’ve worked closely
  • Supervisors of internships or work studies.

See also: How to Write a Letter of Intent | Full Samples |PDF

2. Make a formal request

Talking with someone before making a formal written reference request is important.

In person, ask the person you wish to serve as a reference whether they would write a recommendation for you. If a physical meeting is not possible, you may enquire by phone or brief email before submitting further details.

Make a formal letter of recommendation for graduate school requests through email. This maintains professional decorum and provides them with information for writing a recommendation.

3. Provide information about the author

To write the most detailed letter of recommendation, add as much information as possible for your reference, including:

  • Revised CV or resume based on real transcript
  • Graduate school applications need a copy of your statement.
  • Research, internships, and academic groups are examples of related endeavours.
  • List of your career goals
  • Your accomplishments in their class or under their supervision, as well as any awards or accolades and any related academic or research activities (poster presentations, symposia, internship programs, etc.)
  • Copies of entrance essays

Here are some tips for providing the best information available to the authors:

See also: How to Write A Stay At Home Mum Cover Letter | Sample Templates

Choose those you value.

You may show your appreciation for a boss’s or professor’s judgment of your talents by asking for a letter of reference.

You may also tell your reference why you choose to obtain a recommendation from them.

For example, suppose you requested a letter from your accounting professor to support your Master of Business Administration degree application. Then you may discuss how their classes inspired you to pursue a graduate degree in the field. Consider presenting specific examples of the insights they provided to highlight the value of their guidance.

What did you learn from your referee?

You might discuss how working with your chosen employer or colleague helped you progress in your career. You may highlight the skills they helped you develop or their support as you look for your ideal employment.

Make your process clear.

It would be advantageous if you informed your reference about the school’s submission criteria.

Some graduate schools allow applicants to collect letters independently to submit all of their documents. Other schools may request that the referee provide the letter immediately to the selection committee through the mail, email, or an online application site.

Give your reference explicit directions on submitting the letter, and as a courtesy, consider providing them with a pre-addressed, postage-paid envelope.

4. Allow enough time for the letter-writing procedure.

Inform your reference that you need the letter as soon as possible so that you may submit your application to the institution on schedule.

Allow them enough time to properly review your qualifications and produce a reference before requesting one. For example, a month before the application deadline could be a suitable time to submit your formal request.

Set a deadline for the graduate letter of recommendation for your references before the application deadline to ensure you have adequate time.

Keep in mind the scope of your reference’s existing commitments. Suppose your coworker, employer, or professor is overburdened with the midterm or final examinations or handling an increased workload, give them a longer time.

5. Write a letter of thanks.

Consider writing a note of thanks to each reference. This demonstrates appreciation for the time they took out of their schedule to write the letter to enhance your education.

You might also tell them whether or not you have been admitted to graduate school. This additional effort is another professional courtesy that will likely enhance your relationship with the reference and aid you in the future if you need their referral again.

See also: How to Send a Letter Internationally| Simple Step-by-Step Guide

A Sample Request for Letter of Recommendation for Grad School

A formal request for a letter of recommendation for graduate school can look like this:

To: [email protected]
Subject: Letter of Recommendation Request for Jill Smith

Dear Professor Copeland,

I am emailing to request a letter of recommendation for Triton University’s MFA in Visual Arts program for the fall of 2019. I took two classes with you—Advanced Color Theory and Contemporary Techniques of Painting—and you mentored me for my final art project. Sir, I am excited to build my portfolio and refine my artistic techniques while I earn my MFA in Visual Arts.

After researching many MFA programs, I chose TU because of the school’s philosophy of thinking creatively and challenging the norm. I remember you encouraged us to challenge the rules, and I believe this graduate program will be beneficial to me.

You were the first teacher to help me explore surrealism and abstract compositions. You saw how my work evolved after I found a new art form to pursue. If it weren’t for your encouragement, I would have never entered the Drip 34 painting competition. I emerged third in the competition because of your encouragement. Since then, I have created a diverse portfolio and grown in confidence. I’m hoping one day teach other young people how to think creatively and produce inspiring works of visual art.

The recommendation letter should be mailed directly to Triton University’s MFA program and postmarked no later than Nov. 15, 2019. If you will kindly accept my request, I will send you the mailing information along with a stamped and addressed envelope.

I have attached samples of my portfolio and academic transcripts and a list of competitions I’ve entered.

I know you are busy, so I appreciate your time and effort. And I appreciate you for being such an inspiring professor and artist.

Best regards,
Jill Smith

Sample First Ask Email:

Subject: Letter of Recommendation Request for Jane Doe

Dear Mr. Jones:

I hope you and the ABC Company team are doing well as I write this email.
As a result of your mentorship and leadership, I’ve chosen to apply to Quinnipiac University’s MS in Organizational Leadership program. I wish to utilize this training to improve my chances of becoming a director at my business.

I’m writing to ask if you would be prepared to write a glowing letter of recommendation for me since you’ve seen me manage a small team. If you have the time, I will appreciate the opportunity to chat with you quickly about the criteria listed in the school’s letter.

I understand if your schedule prevents you from submitting a recommendation for me.

I value your opinions and time. I’m looking forward to hearing from you again.


Jane Doe

Sample Follow-up Email

Subject: Letter of Recommendation Request for Jane Doe

Dear Mr. Jones,

I appreciate you coming to visit me this afternoon. I appreciate you allowing me to utilize your letter of recommendation for graduate school. The application deadline is December 1.

I want to get a master’s degree in analytics from Quinnipiac University because I feel the information and skills I’ll obtain there will help me develop in my current employment in the business intelligence division.

The curriculum aligns with the goals of our team, and I plan to put the skills I learned in class to use straight immediately. Quinnipiac University is where you may learn more about the course.
I would appreciate it if you could testify to the success of my efforts in our most recent IT data integration project.

For further information, please check my résumé and personal statement, which are attached.

The university will contact you and request your approval. Please contact me if you have any queries.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.


Jane Doe


In Conclusion

One key component of the whole graduate school application process is letters of recommendation.

We urge you to:

  • Submit your application as soon as possible.
  • Attentively read over the admission requirements.
  • Cooperate closely with your admission representative.
  • Submit a well-done application.

The admissions committee’s first concern is whether you will be a good fit for their program. To position yourself as a strong candidate, ensure that every component of your graduate application highlights your ability, passion, and integrity to contribute to the program.

We hope you enjoyed reading this guide on how to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation for Grad School. Use the information contained here and get back to us in the comment section.



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