Requesting Faculty References

We recommend that you allow at least eight weeks for a professor to prepare a letter of reference.

If your circumstances require shorter notice, ask your professor if she or he can meet your deadline. When requesting your letter, arrange to meet with your professor to discuss your plans. Provide a potential referee with helpful information about you. Suggestions are listed below. It is important to give your faculty member the option to decline to write on your behalf. They may feel they do not know you well enough, or that your record is not strong enough for admission to a given program.

Provide your faculty with the following information:

  1. Your resume or fact sheet about you. You might wish to add a brief narrative highlighting talents, skills, and experiences, such as a particularly rigorous part of your record, the leadership roles that you have held, or an unusual study or travel experience.
  2. Your transcript, list of courses taken with the faculty member, and grades received.
  3. Copies of particularly good papers or exams submitted to the faculty member with their comments and grades.
  4. The guidelines for the intellectual/personal qualities of the program or fellowship to which you are applying. If you are applying to graduate school in the faculty member’s academic discipline, these guidelines are not necessary. If you are applying for a job, internship, or fellowship, provide a description of the position as well as the organization or program.
  5. A personal statement, if required by the program.

Remember, while your faculty member is responsible for composing the letter, it is your responsibility to manage the process. Consult this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education for guidance on how to do so. When the process is complete, be sure to send a thank you note to your advisor and keep them updated on the outcome of your application.