Asking for a letter of recommendation

Letters of recommendation are needed for everything from major scholarships to jobs to entrance into professional schools. It is important that your recommender be able to write an effective, individualized letter of recommendation for you. To do so, your recommenders will need the following information:

  1. Deadline date for the recommendation– (at least three weeks)
  2. Electronic version of recommendation form, if there is one. Please waive your right to see the evaluation letter.
  3. Complete addresses of schools/departments/business etc., with contact person’s name and title (is this person “Dr.”?)
  4. Your resume or CV or statement of skills, college organizations, jobs, positions of leadership, etc.
  5. Your application statement/essay. If one is not needed for your application, then write a detailed paragraph about why you are applying for the specific position / scholarship / internship, etc. and state your ultimate career goals
  6. GRE scores (verbal, quantitative) OR MCAT scores OR other scores, as applicable
  7. USM ID number to access your SMART sheet
  8. A statement of your strengths and your weaknesses
  9. Your phone number in case of questions
  10. How long you have known the recommender and in what capacity (instructor, research advisor, etc)

The most effective letters are those with personal examples and these can only be written by professors that know you and have interacted with you over a significant period of time. Instructors you have only had for one class typically write a brief letter which will not help much. Likewise, administrators with whom you have not worked closely will also write a more generic letter.

*The advice of Drs. Dave Davies and Patricia Biesiot are gratefully acknowledged.