How Important are Letters of Recommendation for Graduate School Applications?

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Updated August 4, 2020

Getting into a top notch, reputable graduate program is one of the best things you can do to strengthen your education. However, some of the most competitive graduate schools in the United States require potential candidates to send letters of recommendation with their graduate school application. Schools just don't want to rely on grades, test scores and resumes as a means of determining the quality of a student. Schools always to want to see how well individuals speak about your work ethic, experience, intelligence and personality. Here are some compelling reasons why letters of recommendation are important for graduate school applications.

Standard Practice

It is a common practice for many top graduate programs to ask candidates to send in at least two to three letters of recommendation in with their graduate school application. Most graduate programs would like to see how well professors, past/present employers, and other academic faculty speak to your credentials and abililites. Typically, a competitive graduate program will request the applicant to send in at least one letter from an employer, one letter from a professor, and one letter from another individual who has experience evaluating your academics or work experience. Some universities actually have templates that these individuals can use when writing out a graduate school letter of recommendation.

Ask the right people

If a prospective graduate program requires you to send in letters of recommendation, it is important that you ask the right people. Do not ask professors, former supervisors or other individuals with whom you did not develop a serious relationship. Most professors will not write a letter of recommendation if they do not know you well enough to vouch for your academics. Also, supervisors will need to have had experience judging you as a worker. Rule of thumb: You should have known these individuals for at least six months to a year before asking them for a recommendation. There is a strong likelihood that if someone agrees to right you a letter of recommendation that they will speak highly of you.

Ask people with reputations

If you want to seriously strengthen your graduate school application, you should seek recommendations from individuals who have a long-withstanding history and reputation within an university and or community. Politicians, published professors, prominent lawyers and other civic leaders are also good sources of recommendations as this will speak volumes to the people you know and have worked with. This is not to discount relatively unknown people, but there is a strong likelihood a graduate program will like your application if a high profile individual has written a letter of recommendation for you.

Inform your prospects about your educational intentions

Finally and most importantly when soliciting someone to write a letter of recommendation, it is important to let these individuals know what your educational intentions are, the program you are applying to and other key pieces of information that can use to write the best letter of recommendation possible.

Getting letters of recommendation written for you to be attached with your graduate school application is of utmost importance. These letters will speak volume about your character and academic potential.

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