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Most graduate programs request two to four letters of recommendation.

Consider the following when selecting who you ask for recommendations:

  • Ask people who can speak to your qualifications for the program you're applying, whether they are professors, advisors or supervisors.
  • Most academic programs prefer recommendations from professors who can speak to your academic abilities. 
  • You will benefit more from recommenders who have worked closely with you, rather than those who have a high title but don’t know you well. 
  • Select professional recommenders, not “character references” such as family, neighbors or clergy.

How to ask for a letter of recommendation:

  • Begin by asking “Do you feel you know my work well enough to write me a good recommendation letter?” It’s okay to give the person an option to not write the recommendation if he/she doesn't feel comfortable. You don’t want a weak letter submitted on your behalf.
  • If the recommender agrees, provide an updated résumé or CV, as well as a description of the program to which you are applying.
  • Be very clear about when and how the recommender needs to submit the letter of recommendation. Give sufficient notice—many people would like four to six weeks to prepare your letter. 
  • It is standard to waive your rights to see the letters written on your behalf—this ensures confidentiality for the letter writer, which increases the validity in the eyes of the admissions committee.