All applications to graduate schools will require 2-3 letters of recommendation. We recommend that you request letters from the professors with whom you have had the most interaction.
Faculty receive many requests of this nature. You should ask for letters at least a month before you need them. Give your recommenders a brief resume with GPA, academic achievements, undergraduate research and accomplishments. This helps the writer to include information beyond their personal views.
You should sign the waiver for right of access. This means that you can't have access to read the recommendations. Letters with a waived the right to access are more seriously considered. Graduate programs consider non-waived letters to be less objective.
Most schools now use on-line reference systems. If you are applying to one that does not, give each faculty member the printed forms and stamped, addressed envelopes.
Recommendation forms used by graduate programs are all different but in general carry the same basic theme. They are looking for an objective assessment of your potential to successfully complete a graduate program. 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.
The writer will rate you on
- knowledge of subject matter
- research potential
- creativity for research
- emotional maturity
- potential as a teacher
- writing ability
- communication skills.