Letters of Recommendation

The Dos and Don't of Requesting Recommendation Letters from WWU Creative Writing Faculty:

Ask your faculty way ahead of time, preferably September if you're applying in the winter—but at least a month before the deadline. Your faculty member should NOT find out they have been asked because they received an automatically generated on-line form from the school of your choice.

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.

Create a composite 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 the papers in order to help them speak specifically about your work.

Create a composite 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 schools require cover forms, print them out, read and sign them. 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 gives the recommendation more weight. On your composite list indicate which recommendations may be sent directly to the school, which will require on-line forms, and which must be returned to you for inclusion in the packet you send them.

Do provide self-addressed, stamped envelopes. Many of us write our recommendations at home, as it is very time-consuming and often cannot be done in our time on campus. Expecting faculty to foot the bill for postage is discourteous—we often write dozens of recommendation letters per year. Ditto for addressing envelopes—it may not seem like much to ask, but multiply your letters times ten, and imagine trying to write out all those envelopes while meeting deadlines.

Include a resume and your best draft of your Application Statement. Be sure you have read the Sept/Oct 2010 issue of Poets & Writers: "The Dos and Don'ts of MFA Personal Statements." 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.

Be sure to include your contact number as well as address.

Do not send your faculty member a list of links that he or she is supposed to visit in order to print off forms.

Do not e-mail in one request at a time and then decide to add another.

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 they are willing to send recommendations to in other words, some may be willing to write to a dozen schools, others six.