Do I need letters of recommendation?

Usually, you will need three letters of recommendation from faculty who are familiar with your academic work.

  • Provide each of your referees with some background on you:
    • A copy of your general Statement of Objectives. This will help “jog” their memories about what you want to do and will ensure that what they say about you will be consistent with what you have said.
    • A copy of your resume (coursework, relevant activities, jobs, etc.).
    • Copies of work (papers, exams) you did in their classes.
    • A summary of salient points about the program(s) to which you are applying, so they can explain why you are such a great fit. Be sure to include a list of the faculty.
    • Finally, if your referees are willing, take the time to talk to them about your goals and your reasons for applying.
  • Do not use generic reference services, which could hurt your chances of admission. Ask your referees to write letters to each program.
    • Programs can recognize “form letters” and such letters do not speak strongly in your favor.
    • If your referees are supportive, they will tailor their letters to mention specific points relevant to the individual programs.
    • Remember that it’s a small world: your referees may actually know someone in the program to which you are applying and can “personalize” the letter to their colleague or friend.
  • Always waive your right to review the letters; if you do not, admissions committees may discount them.