Requesting Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are a standard practice for applications for grad school, fellowships, and for many jobs. In order to ensure that faculty writes the best possible letter for you, please follow the guidelines below.  Please note that these are general guidelines, always check with the faculty you approach for letters of recommendation.

Plan Ahead

  • As soon as you know that you will enter a period during which you need letters of recommendations, speak to faculty.  Ask the faculty if they are prepared to write you a letter, find out if when they are absent, onleave, or otherwise prevented from doing so.
  • Check that a letter is required.
  • While applying to grad schools will normally require 2-3 letters of recommendation, check if applications for fellowships, grants, and jobs indeed require a letter.  For jobs it is often practice that the refereeis called by the prospective employer.

Give faculty at least three weeks to write their letters of recommendation.

Prepare a package that contains all relevant information:

  1. A photocopy of the announcement for the job, grant, fellowship, etc. that includes the criteria by which awards are been made or candidates are selected.
  2. If you apply for grad school, a grant, or a fellowship: read the application material and make a list of relevant criteria and how you match the criteria.
  3. For each letter of recommendation, provide a separate sheet of paper with the following information:
    • To whom the letter should be addressed (unless a form is provided that contains that information)
    • Each criteria upon which an award is based and how you match (or don’t) these criteria. This is very important as faculty can gear their letter of recommendations to your strengths and can possibly explain certain weaknesses that you may have with regard to individual criteria
    • Note if the letter is to be returned to you, or if it needs to be posted directly to the addressee
    • Clearly state any deadline that needs to be matched
  4. A photocopy of your (research) proposal and/or your cover letter even if both are still in draft form. The latter will usually provide enough information and you may get some useful feedback on your drafts. One copy of your research proposal is sufficient if you submit the same proposal as part of various applications. If you adjust the proposal and the cover letter for each application, make sure that you include a copy of each version, clearly marked which version is for which application.
  5. A photocopy of your CV as you intend to send it with your application.  One copy is sufficient even if you need several letters, unless you amend your CV for each application.
  6. Stamped and addressed envelopes if the letters of recommendations are mailed directly.
  7. Supply a list of all classes (including indications of the quarters) that you have taken from the members of faculty whom you have asked to write letters of recommendation.
  8. Keep all essays, papers, and exams at hand you have written, in case faculty wishes to review them when writing the reference.
  9. Keep information such as, for example, your GPA, your GRE scores and similar ready at hand.

Faculty will usually write letters of recommendation because they want to help you to succeed with your applications. However, to write good letters of recommendation is time consuming and requires some thought. You can help that process by preparing packages that contain all relevant information.

Consult with UCSB Career Services Link opens in a new window for further information regarding requesting letters of recommendation Link opens in a new window, application procedures Link opens in a new window, for help with writing your undergrad CV Link opens in a new window or cover letter and essays Link opens in a new window. Applying for grad school, fellowships, grants, or a job is a time consuming process that requires forethought and careful planning. Start early throughout your university career to collect material and information about classes you have taken, papers you have written (keep them all!), extra curricular activities, and jobs that you have had.

See Applying to Graduate School for more details about preparing your graduate school application.