This is the final post of our Postbac Admissions Series where we explore the ins and outs of applying to postbaccalaureate programs, including tips for finding the best programs, writing the best essays, finding the best recommenders, and more. Click here to get the complete guide.
Your letters of recommendation strongly influence the admissions committee that reviews your application. They can make or break your review. Given their importance, it may feel like you do not have much control over them. However, how you request them and whom you request them from actually determines the type of letters you will receive. The following guidelines can ensure that you will get the best letters to support the success of your application.
1. Create a Timeline
Set up a timeline for yourself that includes the deadlines for your application materials. Request your letters of recommendation as early as you can. Most professors are not easily accessible during the summer months or towards the end of each semester or quarter. The earlier in the term you can secure your letters, the better.
Only request letters from professors in whose classes you earned A’s or mentors with whom you established a strong rapport. By making a list and thinking carefully about who knows you best and is therefore in a better position to write about you knowledgeably, you’ll be ensuring that you receive strong letters. If you only have a couple of names on your list, start going to office hours and networking to find a suitable mentor.
3. Request the Letter In-Person
It is always best to request letters of recommendation in-person. This way you can demonstrate by your actions how important the opportunity is to you. When you request the letter, it’s best to look the person in the eyes and ask, “Would you be willing to write a strong letter of recommendation to support my postbac application?” Based on the person’s response, you can provide them with the materials they need.
4. Prepare a Letter Packet
Prepare a packet for each letter writer that includes a copy of your personal statement, resume or CV, and any other information they might need to write you a strong letter. Some students even include an addressed pre-paid envelope so that the letter writer can mail their letter easily and without any additional cost besides their time.
Using these guidelines can help you to formulate a successful strategy in gathering the types of letters that will lead to your acceptance. Be confident and focus on each small goal you set for yourself in your strategy. Even the most intimidating professors were students once who also had to request letters from their mentors.
Oh, and don’t forgot to send thank you notes to your recommenders.
Alicia McNease Nimonkar worked for 5 years as the Student Advisor & Director at the UC Davis School of Medicine's postbac program where she both evaluated applications and advised students applying successfully to med school and other health professional programs. She has served Accepted's clients since 2012 with roughly a 90% success rate. She has a Master of Arts in Composition and Rhetoric as well as Literature. Want Alicia to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!