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Recommendations and Transcripts

Advice for Requesting Recommendations

Choosing a Recommender:

  • Stick to having professors write your recommendations unless the application specifically requires something else.
  • Choose recommenders who know you and your work well; they will be able to write you the strongest letters.
  • Tip: Develop relationships with professors throughout your academic career. Visit office hours to discuss the course material and the profession, even if you are not struggling in the course. Pursue research or internship opportunities that your professors recommend or sponsor. The best recommendations come from professors who have seen you doing significant independent research and projects.
  • Review the fellowship opportunity carefully. Choose recommenders who will be able to explain why you are a good fit for this particular fellowship.
  • Check to see if the fellowship has any requirements or advice about selecting recommenders.

Requesting Recommendations:

  • Request letters of recommendation immediately. One month’s advance notice is the standard etiquette.
  • When requesting a recommendation in person or by email, ask the professor directly: “Do you think you can provide a strong recommendation for me?” Be sure to leave your professor room to decline. There may be many reasons why a professor feels unable to write you a strong recommendation for an opportunity--perhaps they don't think they can provide the information that this particular fellowship is looking for, or they don't feel they know you well enough to write you a truly excellent letter. You want the strongest letters you can get, so be willing to look for alternatives if a professor is hesitant about their ability to write you a recommendation.
  • Provide recommenders with a description of the fellowship and any relevant application materials you have: a resume or CV, essay drafts, etc.
  • Clearly communicate all deadlines and any information your recommender needs to submit their letter. If a fellowship provides specific guidance for letter writers (this information can often be found on fellowship websites), send that to your recommenders, as well.
  • A useful reference for what fellowships are looking for in a recommendation can be found here and shared with your recommender.
  • Tip: Be as clear and organized as possible when sharing information with your recommenders. 
  • You will often be asked to “waive your right” to see your recommendation. You MUST waive this right. In general, waiving rights does not feel right, but in this case, it’s the appropriate choice. If you want to discuss this further, contact the fellowships advisor.
  • One week before the recommendation is due, gently remind your recommender by email if you have not yet received it.
  • Always send a THANK YOU NOTE to recommenders after the process is over and let them know the outcome of your application. 

Requesting Transcripts

Simple: just see the instructions provided by Student Records. Request transcripts at least seven working days before the due date to ensure they arrive in time.