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USP Letter of Recommendation Guidelines

Who to Ask

Choose a faculty (or in some cases advisor) who knows you well. Ideally the person writing your letter of recommendation will know your work in a variety of contexts. The more your recommender knows about you the more specific the letter of recommendation will be. You may find the following questions helpful when deciding who to ask for a letter of recommendation:

  • Does this professor know my name?

  • Have we spoken outside of class?

  • Have I taken more than one class with this professor?

  • Can they speak to my knowledge and skills?

The answer to all of these questions does not necessarily need to be yes. They are designed to get you thinking about how much the professor can write about you as a student, researcher, and/or leader.

When to Ask

A general guideline is to ask for a letter of recommendation at least two months in advance. Please do not wait until the last minute to ask for a letter of recommendation. Generally, if the recommender has more time to write the letter, it will be of higher quality. Asking earlier also gives you time to find a backup recommender if your first choice is unable to write a letter on your behalf.

How to Ask

Often the easiest way to ask for a letter of recommendation is through email. You can also request a meeting to ask in person, which may be helpful if you haven’t taken classes with the professor for some time. If you send an email, include your name and “recommendation request” in the subject line. 

What to Include

When emailing a professor for a letter of recommendation, there are several things that a recommender might find helpful. Consider providing the following for your recommender:

  • Your full name and contact information

  • A brief description of the opportunity you are applying to

  • Information about why you are applying to this particular opportunity

  • Your resume

  • A draft of your cover letter and/or statement of purpose

  • A list of the course(s) you completed with that professor (by name and quarter) and a summary of your performance in it/them. You may wish to highlight and summarize one or two assignments per class that are exemplars of the caliber of your work.

  • Any details about what you would like them to highlight in their letter. 

  • For graduate school applications, include a list of all the programs where you are applying along with their deadlines.