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.

Cultivate Faculty Relationships

  • Building strong relationships before you need a letter of recommendation is important. Take multiple classes with a professor, stop by their office hours, conduct projects, research, or independent studies with faculty so they can speak to your ability.

Get Prepared in Advance

  • Request your letter of recommendation well in advance and provide your recommender with all the necessary materials at least one month before the due date.
  • Select faculty recommenders first and foremost on the basis 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 online 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 or statement of research that explains what you have gained from your department/program. What was your favorite class? Why?
  • Key qualities or attributes you would like the recommender to highlight or focus on.
  • Due date so the letter writer knows when to complete the letter.
  • A list that explains each program, position, or experience you are applying to and the specific due date for each school.
  • If taking time off between undergraduate and graduate school, make sure to keep in touch with faculty members and ideally get recommendation letters before leaving.

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.

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.
  • Express your gratitude and thanks to the recommender for taking their time to assist you.