Letters of recommendation are a key part of your application. Strong ones provide meaningful support, and a lukewarm one can really hurt you. In this post we’ll answer two questions: Who should write in support of your PhD application? And how can you make sure your letters are as good as they can be?
How to choose the best LOR writers
For your PhD application, you need LORs that can address your research experience and potential. Most of your letters, unless you have extensive work experience, should be from academic references. (If you have work experience, you can submit a work reference, but it should also focus on your research potential.) Ask people who know you well and can comment specifically and knowledgeably about your abilities.
When you ask your recommenders if they can write in support of your application, ask if they would be able to write you a “strong” letter. This provides a gentle way for a hesitant recommender to decline – they can let you know that they don’t think they know you well enough to write a “strong” letter (or you might sense their hesitation), and you can move on to someone else.
How to help your recommenders write strong LORs
For the recommenders who are able to write for you, offer to supply whatever information will help them: your CV, a draft of your SOP, copies of work you produced for their class, etc. Offer to meet with them to discuss your goals. (They might not have time, but this can make their job easier.) You can also send them a link to Accepted’s 10 Tips for Recommenders.
Say thank you!
And always remember to follow up with a thank you note. (Ideally, you can write another thank you note after you get in, sharing the good news!)
You need to choose your PhD letter of recommendation writers wisely, and then you need to present them with the right materials to assist them in constructing strong letters that will represent your greatest strengths. We can help you with this, and with any other element of your PhD application. Check out our catalog of Graduate School Admissions Services and let us know how we can help you achieve PhD admissions success!By Dr. Rebecca Blustein, former Accepted admissions consultant. Dr. Blustein has a BA and PhD from UCLA in English and Comparative Literature. She formerly worked as a Student Affairs Officer at UCLA’s Scholarship Resource Center where she gained experience guiding applicants in areas of admissions and funding. Dr. Blustein’s clients have been accepted to top Master’s and PhD programs in dozens of fields across all disciplines. Want an admissions expert help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!
• Choosing the Best PhD Programs, a free guide
• How NOT to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation
• Lining Up Letters of Recommendation and Searching for Fellowships