As you all know, letters of recommendation are important to your graduate school applications. What follows are a few tips to make sure you get the best letters or recommendation possible.
Ask someone who knows you well and can attest to your relevant strengths. Your dance instructor may know you well, but he or she can’t necessarily attest to the kinds of things that are relevant for graduate school (academic skills, written and oral communication skills, etc.). Make sure you ask those people who can write about those things because that’s what the person reviewing your application will care about most.
Ask early. Believe it or not, we take great care in writing these letters, and nothing makes it harder to write a great letter than short notice. Because we get so many requests and have so many other responsibilities, we need to plan ahead. Most people will want at least a month before the first deadline.
Find out what they want/need from you. Different letter writers want/need different things. Some ask you to turn in personal statements, resumes, old assignments, etc., and each person might be different. They ask for those things for a reason (because it helps them write you a great letter) so find out what they want you to do and give them exactly that.
Be organized. The more organized you are, the more likely you are to get a good letter. The people who are writing letters for you might write between 50 and 150 letters each year so it’s incredibly helpful to them if you can be organized (plus, it decreases the chances of a mistake on their part). Put together a document with every program you are applying to, the due dates for those programs, whether or not the program requires the letter be sent directly from us or if all information needs to be together, etc. This sort of things means that your letter writer can spend less time trying to figure out what should be sent where and more time crafting a great letter.
For even more information, please refer to the Letters of Recommendation link on the Human Development website.