Letters of Recommendation
The Career Services Center is here to help!
Western's Career Services Center offers valuable graduate school resources for students and alumni. Their services include:
- Guidelines for obtaining letters of recommendation
- Graduate school advising
- Tips on writing personal statements
- and more!
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Faculty Contacts and Office Hours
Check the English Department Directory to view faculty contacts and office hours.
Best Practices for Requesting Letters of Recommendation
When should I reach out?
Ask your faculty way ahead of time. Graduating seniors should be reaching out in September if applying in the winter. At minimum, you should ask a month before your deadline. Your faculty member should NOT find out they have been asked because they receive an automatically generated request form from the school of your choice.
What information should I provide?
Create a list of all the courses you took from the recommending faculty and in what year. If possible, photocopy or scan comments they made on your papers and include these papers in order to help them speak specifically about your work. Share this information with your professor after he or she has agreed to write a recommendation for you.
Create a list of all the schools you would like to apply to in the order of their deadlines (earliest first). Please indicate degree applied for in each case (MA/MFA/PhD). If the form asks whether the recommendation is confidential or non-confidential, check confidential. Waiving your right to read the recommendation until after the process is over may give the recommendation more weight in the eyes of graduate admissions committees.
Include a resume and your best draft of your Application Statement. (This statement can have a variety of names; "Personal Statement" is another common name.) Remember that these statements are not intended as full biographies. They are short writing samples in which you are demonstrating your qualifications for acceptance. If you are applying for more than one type of degree, you will most likely need to write several versions of your Personal Statement. If you are interested in applying for a Teaching Assistantship, be sure your faculty recommender is aware of this, and check to see if your application has an earlier due date.
Your faculty recommender may be writing between 50 and 100 letters, so you need to consolidate your information well before you ask. Please be aware that some faculty limit the number of schools to which they are willing to send recommendations. In other words, some may be willing to write to a dozen schools, others may be willing to write to two or three per student. Please be courteous and respect the boundaries of each faculty recommender.
What if I ask and they say no?
If you ask a faculty member for a recommendation and that person feels he or she cannot provide one, do not try to press or insist. Faculty members typically only recommend students they can recommend whole-heartedly, and whom they know well enough to write a detailed recommendation in the genre in which you are applying. There are many reasons why writing a good recommendation letter may not be possible, and in this area, the faculty member’s yes or no response should prevail.