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Guidelines for Requesting Letters of Recommendation for Undergraduates
The members of the faculty are happy to write letters of recommendation for you. Because we want to do this as positively and as efficiently as possible, we have written the following guidelines for you.
Letters are most effective when written by faculty members who know you well and can appraise your work, skills, and personality with some degree of specificity. Letters from faculty advisors are critical. In a highly competitive market, brief general letters usually do not suffice. In the case of graduate school applications, programs will expect to see a letter from the faculty member who teaches in the field for which you are applying to study. In the case of job placement, you may wish to ask faculty members whose field or employment history is appropriate to the position that you are seeking. Whenever possible, you should request letters of recommendation at least two to four weeks before the deadline (if you are requesting multiple letters to multiple institutions, you need to give them at least a month). Sometimes this is not possible; in these instances, please understand that you may be asked to seek another recommender. Please remember that the results are best when professors write for students whose work they know well. Requests with tighter turn-around times are more easily accommodated when the professor has written for you in the past and thus has a letter on file.
Once a faculty member has agreed to write for you, you should provide your recommender with the same materials that you would provide the institution you are applying to, such as:
An updated resume.
A description of the project for which you wish to receive funding or, in the case of graduate school applications, your personal statement.
A sample of your written work (paper or exam).
A list of addresses and deadlines.
Forms that are completed in an accurate manner (including signing and checking the box regarding confidentiality).
In most cases, faculty members will either upload their letter online or send letters directly to the institution or funding agency to which you're applying (hence the need for accurate addresses and deadlines). In the cases of letters that are sent out by post, please supply one stamp for every letter that must be sent out. All letters will be mailed in envelopes marked with the return address of the department. Even in cases where a granting institution or funding source requests that letters come in a single packet from you, some faculty members prefer to send materials directly to the program/job, etc. for which you're applying. Please be aware that a decision to proceed in this fashion is entirely within the rights of the recommender and that for many institutions, in fact, this is a widely accepted condition of confidentiality. In those cases where you will in fact assemble the entire packet yourself, please provide the faculty member with a stamped, self-addressed envelope for every recommendation letter that will be sent back to you. Do not use an envelope with the return address of your place of work. The likely scenario here is for the professor to write the letter on department letterhead, put it in a department envelope, sign across the seal to demonstrate confidentiality, and then send the whole back to you in the envelope you've provided.