Letter of Recommendation Tips
USD faculty are available and pleased to write recommendations for students to help with internships, career positions, graduate schools, professional schools and various awards. Strong faculty recommendations require timely and careful student preparation.
Get Prepared in Advance
- Request your letter of recommendation well in advance and provide your recommender with all the necessary materials at least two weeks before the due date.
- Select faculty recommenders first and foremost on the bases of strong classroom performance. Your academic advisor typically cannot write a strong letter without a classroom connection.
- Organize your materials carefully; begin by asking your recommender if he or she prefers supporting documentation in hard copy form rather than email attachment. A hard copy preference would of course mean sending materials by mail if you are no longer in town.
- Ask whether your recommender prefers to submit letters on line or by mail (and be sure to know whether both options are offered).
When Asking for a Recommendation, Provide:
- An updated resume.
- A brief personal statement that explains what you have gained from your department/program. What was your favorite class? Why?
- Provide examples of projects or papers that you have completed that demonstrated your skills relevant for the field.
- Something that exemplifies how you to stand out so the letter writer can include that in the letter.
- Information about activities or internships that are relevant to your career path.
- Due date so the letter writer knows when to complete the letter.
Applying to Graduate School?
Provide the following to your letter writer:
- Personal statement about how your undergraduate degree has inspired you to pursue graduate school.
- Information about what you plan to study and why.
- Provide examples of projects or research papers that laid the foundation for your interest in graduate school.
- Information about undergraduate research experiences or internships that are relevant to pursuing a graduate degree.
- Information about the faculty you hope to work with in the graduate program.
- A list that explains each program and the specific due date for each school.
- An updated resume.
For Law School, Include:
- Personal statement about how your undergraduate degree has inspired you to pursue a law degree.
- Information about the area of law that is most interesting to you.
- Provide examples of projects or research papers that laid the foundation for your interest in law school.
- Information about activities or internships that are relevant to a career in law.
- Information about how you plan to use your law degree.
- Specific due dates.
- An updated resume.
How to Deliver Your Materials to the Letter Writer
- Provide all material to your recommender in a single package or set of attachments - not individually. These materials typically include a cover note summarizing the information needed and the relevant due dates, your (unofficial) academic record or transcript, a writing sample, a resume, a photo in cases where you have not been in touch for some time and stamped and addressed envelopes for traditional mail submissions. Highlight the course(s) you took with the recommender on the academic record.
- Students who are requesting numerous letters (several graduate and/or professional schools and each with a different program name) should be particularly diligent about the organization of their files, (e.g. noting different due dates).
After You Request a Recommendation
- Waive your right to view a recommendation unless you have consulted with your recommender and he or she has agreed to write a non-confidential letter; most faculty believe non-confidential letters have diminished value and some professors will not write them.
- Send a message to your recommender one week before the due date so they have a reminder and your contact information (including your phone number).
- Let your recommender know the outcome of your application, even in the hopefully unlikely event of a disappointment.