Letters of Recommendation
department of psychology
Here are some hints concerning letters of recommendation:
- Get to know faculty (by doing research, serving as a TA, taking seminar courses, etc.) who might then write letters saying how wonderful you are.
- Discuss the matter with the person you want to write for you long before the deadline. A last minute request may annoy the person by making it difficult to meet the deadline. (Remember that a popular professor may be writing letters for several students.)
- Pick people who like you and whom you trust. Figure out some tactful way of asking the person whether he or she would be able to write a strong letter ("Do you think you know me well enough to write a letter in support of my application to a Ph.D. program in experimental/social (etc.) psychology?") By giving someone a graceful way to decline, you may save yourself a lukewarm letter that could weaken your application.
- Most recommendation forms have boxes to check to indicate whether or not you waive your right to see the letter. If you trust your recommender, then check the box that says you waive your right to see the letter. The confidentiality makes the letter appear more valid and honest. If you do not trust the recommender, then ask someone else to write for you.
- If a person agrees to write letters for you, give that person some background information: your resume, your personal statement about why you want to obtain a Ph.D. in psychology, your transcript, any other relevant experience you may have had, etc. This information will help the person write a more detailed letter. Programs are more impressed by a letter from someone who knows the applicant well.
- Be very careful about your application materials, including the recommendation forms. Be sure that you have filled out all parts carefully and completely. Use a typewriter to type your name and everything else on the forms and envelopes. Provide stamped envelopes with typed addresses to your recommenders. (Note: the return address on these envelopes should be that of the letter writer.)
- Be organized. Provide the recommender with all materials in a neat, easy to read package. Provide a list of all the schools to which you are applying and a list of deadlines. This will help the recommender keep track of things.