All schools will require letters of recommendation (usually 2-3). We strongly recommend that all letters be requested from the science faculty with whom you have had the most interaction. Please keep in mind that the faculty receive numerous requests of this nature; thus requests for letters should be made at least a month before the latest time you wish to have the letters received. You should supply each faculty with recommendation forms and stamped and addressed envelopes when necessary. Many schools now use on-line reference systems.
A brief resume with GPA, academic achievements, undergraduate research and accomplishments, honors (i.e., PBK), etc. also helps provide the writer with appropriate information to include in the letter beyond personal views. You should also make sure that the waiver for right of access is signed. Letters for which the right to access is waived tend to be considered more strongly by the graduate programs. Non-waived letters are considered to be less objective and biased more favorably to the applicant.
The forms used by graduate programs are all different but in general carry the same basic theme, namely that an objective assessment is being made by the writer on the potentials of the applicant for successfully completing a graduate program. The enthusiasm expressed by the writer will vary considerably depending on the perceived aptitude of the student and the quality of the program being considered. There are basically two types of forms used by schools. The first only requests a written narrative; the second requests a written narrative as well as ratings on several or more categories. An example of a typical recommendation form is shown below.
Department of Chemistry
Avagadro, NO 60223
To be completed by the applicant: Name
Degree sought: Master's ( ) Ph.D ( ) Department:
Do you waive the right to access to this information? Yes ( ) No ( )
To be completed by the recommender:
1. Please rate the applicant on: Outstanding Excellent Good Fair Don't Know
Knowledge of subject material: [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
Research potential: [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
Creativity for research: [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
Motivation: [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
Emotional maturity: [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
Potential as a teacher: [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
Writing ability: [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
Communication skills: [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
2. Based on comparisons to other students at this level, check the appropriate recommendation for acceptance into the chemistry program:
[ ] strongly recommend [ ] recommend
[ ] recommend with reservations [ ] do not recommend
3. On the back of this form or in a separate letter, please comment on the applicant with respect to potential success in research, teaching, and academic ability.