If you want to move up in your career and make more money, getting a master’s degree could help you do that. The median salary for people with master’s degrees is about 17% higher than the median salary for people with bachelor’s degrees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Grad school, on the other hand, is getting harder to get into as more people apply to universities. The Council of Graduate Schools says that between fall 2019 and fall 2020, the number of applications for master’s programs went up by 9.6%.
Universities often ask for letters of recommendation as part of the admissions process. A strong letter of recommendation can help you stand out from other applicants and be a valuable asset. This guide will show you everything you need to know about getting letters of recommendation for graduate school, writing them, and using them.
Who Can Write Your Graduate School Recommendation Letter?
Universities usually ask for one to three letters of recommendation when you apply. When deciding who to ask for a letter of recommendation, keep the following in mind:
You should have known these people for a long time: Most of the time, your recommendation letter should come from someone you’ve known for at least a year. The longer you’ve known someone, the more likely it is that they can talk about your character and skills.
They can talk about what you do well: This person should be able to talk about your strengths and how they relate to the graduate program you’re applying to. They should also be able to give specific examples of your academic or professional successes.
They can write well. Some people can say nice things about others in conversation, but it may be hard for them to write about their own experiences. When thinking about your choices, look for someone who can explain their ideas clearly and write in a way that is easy to understand.
They shouldn’t be a family member or close friend. Friends and family may be the first people who come to mind, but they may not be the best choice. Even if they know you well, they might not be able to evaluate your skills as objectively as a professor or employer would.
Some schools require letters to come from former teachers or bosses, while others are more open-minded. If you can choose who to ask, the people below might be able to help:
- Counselors for college
- Supervisors of research
- Managers of internships
- Managers of employment
- Faculty guides
- Mentors at work
- Volunteer supervisors
When to Ask for a Graduate School Recommendation Letter
In general, it’s best to give your letter writers at least four to six weeks before the deadline so they can write a well-thought-out letter on your behalf. When you give them that much time, they can also check their schedules to see if they have time to write the letter.
Each year, more than 2 million applications for graduate school are sent in. Since there are so many people applying, professors and other faculty members are often asked for letters of recommendation more than once. That’s why you should give them as much time as you can before they need your letter.
Most schools will have a deadline for when you need to send in letters of recommendation. If you wait until the last minute to ask for a letter of recommendation, your letter writer might not have enough time to write a strong letter on your behalf.
Also, it’s important to know when the person writing the letter works. If you know they will be busy with midterms, finals, or a big project at work, it might not be the best time to ask for a letter. Instead, try to find a time when they have less to do and can give your letter more of their attention.
How to Ask for Graduate School Recommendation Letters
Once you know who to ask, you should reach out and ask for a letter of recommendation. The best way to do this is in person or over the phone, because it’s more personal and lets you talk naturally about your goals and aspirations. It also shows that you care about what they think and are willing to talk to them about your plans for graduate school.
But busy schedules don’t always make it possible to talk in person or over the phone, so it’s fine to send an email request as well, depending on how well you know the person.
Here’s an example of what you could say when you ask someone in person for a letter of recommendation:
“Hello, Mr. Smith. You may already know that I plan to go to graduate school in the fall to get my MBA. I’m applying to graduate schools, and since I’ve taken a few of your classes and you’ve been a mentor to me, I was hoping you’d be willing to write a letter of recommendation for me.”
Sample Request via Phone
You can use this script as a guide if you want to ask for a letter of recommendation over the phone:
“Hello, Mr. Smith. I’m Jane Doe, and I took your economics class last semester. You may already know that I plan to go to graduate school in the fall to get my MBA. I’m applying to graduate schools, and since I’ve taken a few of your classes and you’ve been a mentor to me, I was hoping you’d be willing to write a letter of recommendation for me.”
Sample Request Via Email
You can use the script below to ask for a letter of recommendation in an email:
I hope you are well when you get this email. I was in your economics class last fall. Because of that class and your research, I’ve decided I want to go into business. In the fall, I’m going to graduate school to get my MBA. I’m applying to graduate schools, and since I’ve taken a few of your classes and you’ve been a mentor to me, I was hoping you’d be willing to write a letter of recommendation for me.”
[It’s important to know that not everyone will agree to write a letter of recommendation. Even though it may be sad, thank them for their time and honesty. It’s better to know right away that they won’t be able to than to get a letter that seems rushed or half-hearted.
What Should a Graduate School Recommendation Letter Say?
If the person says yes, you can offer to send them information about the program you’re applying to, your recent academic or professional achievements, and some highlights about your professional goals. The following information can help the person writing the letter:
What the school is called and what it does: By telling your letter writer about the schools and programs you’re applying to, they can find out what the school’s requirements are and what the program’s focus is.
The deadline to apply: If you let your letter writer know when the deadline is, they can give themselves enough time to write the letter and send it to the university.
A copy of your CV or resume: Your resume or curriculum vitae (CV) will give the person writing the letter an overview of your education, work experience, and research interests.
A list of recent accomplishments in school or work: If you’ve recently won an industry or company award, finished a research project, or been published in an academic journal, your letter writer will want to know so they can include it in the letter.
Samples of your work: If you have any writing samples, research proposals, or presentations from school or work, you can give them to your letter writer to show what you’re interested in and how good you are at what you do.
How to get in touch with you: Make sure you give your phone number and email address so people can reach you.
Instructions for sending the letter: Tell the letter writer how to send the letter of recommendation. Some schools want letters to be sent online, while others would rather get them in the mail or by email.
How to Follow Up on a Graduate School Recommendation Letter
When someone agrees to write a letter of recommendation for you, it’s normal to feel nervous and want to check on its progress. But it’s important to give the person enough time to write a meaningful letter while taking into account other things they have to do.
Most of the time, you shouldn’t follow up until three or four weeks have passed and you haven’t heard from them or gotten confirmation that the letter of recommendation was sent.
If you do follow up, whether in person or by email, be polite and professional. Remind the person of the deadline for the program and ask if they need anything else from you. Thank them for their time and let them know you understand if they can’t write a letter of recommendation.
Getting into grad school
If you want to go to graduate school, it can be hard to figure out how to apply. And asking the right people for letters of recommendation can be stressful. Remember that everyone goes through this, and it’s normal to feel a little nervous.
Starting early can help you manage your stress, and making a list of several possible letter writers will give you a backup in case someone declines or can’t finish the letter by the university’s deadline.
How Do I Get Letters of Recommendation for Graduate School?
What should a letter of recommendation for graduate school say?
A letter of recommendation for a graduate school applicant should talk about the letter writer’s relationship to the applicant, the applicant’s academic or professional achievements, and some of the applicant’s professional goals. A great letter of recommendation will give examples and details about the applicant’s skills and character.
How many recommendation letters should I ask for?
Most programs for graduate school ask for between one and three letters of recommendation. Make a longer list of possible letter writers in case someone can’t write a letter or you don’t get one by the deadline for the program.
Who should write a graduate school recommendation letter?
When it comes to letters of recommendation for graduate school, you should ask professors, employers, or other professionals who can talk about your academic achievements and skills. If you don’t have any professional experience, you can also ask other mentors or supervisors, like the director of a non-profit organization where you volunteered, to talk about your experience and achievements.
Can a graduate school employer write a letter of recommendation?
Yes, employers can write graduate school recommendation letters. In fact, many graduate schools prefer letters from employers because they can talk about your work experience and skills.
What should I send my letter writers to help them write a good letter?
Send your letter writers a copy of your resume, a personal statement, and any other information about your experiences and accomplishments that you think will help them write a strong letter of recommendation. You should also tell them how to get in touch with the graduate program and when the letter needs to be sent.
How do I follow up with my requests for letters of recommendation?
You can follow up with the letter writer in person or by email if you haven’t heard back from them after they agreed to write a recommendation letter. Make sure to give them enough time to write the letter, and only follow up after a few weeks have passed since you asked.
How long should my recommendation letter be?
A letter of recommendation can be any length, but most are between one and two pages. The letter should be long enough to show that the person who wrote it knows you well, has worked or gone to school with you, and thinks highly of you and your skills.
How do I write a letter of recommendation for someone who wants to get a master’s degree?
If you are not a student but have been asked to write a letter of recommendation for someone applying to graduate school, you should start by researching the program and its requirements. Make sure you know what the letter should say, and only agree to write it if you’re sure you can write a good letter with lots of details.
When writing the letter, you should talk about the student’s goals, skills, and accomplishments. Use specific examples to show what you mean, and make sure to carefully edit the letter before sending it.