Reference Letters

reflet“Hi, can you write a reference letter for me?”

If only it were so simple to get a reference letter.

If you need to apply for any graduate programs and awards for next school year, now is the perfect time to start soliciting around!

Generally, students will need several references from professors at some point. It’s always beneficial to keep this in mind when interacting with faculty as the year progresses. Checking-in with the profs on holidays or send congratulations when they earn a grant or award.

Long before requesting the letter:

Study hard in the course, prepare some relevant questions and attend office hours. Profs love curious and engaged students. After dropping by a few times, make 20-30 minute appointments, and chat over tea (Avoid grading and grant writing season). Exchange some personal background on the reasons why you are interested in the field and what got the prof into the field.

Sending your request:

Extremely important is to be genuine. Thank the referee for giving you time and support during the time you worked together. Talk about what you have learned from the referee and where it has led you now. Make sure the referee knows why you want his or her letter specifically.

Let them know what you are applying for, and be sure to let them know the deadline for the letter. Leave at least a month for the referee to write a thoughtful and personal letter. In addition, let the referee know which are the key personal attributes and achievements that should be highlighted. Send a paper or representative work of yours to remind the prof of your abilities and achievements.

If possible, waive the right to read the letter and have the letter sent directly to the organisation that requested it. This shows the referee and the organization that you have a strong, trusting relationship with the referee.

After the letter:

Thank the referee for taking out the time to do this favour. Follow up again once you hear back from the application. Let the referee know how it went. Keep in touch over the years; a powerful reference can do wonders.

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