Letters of Recommendation

Some Guidelines for Students

Academics often write letters of recommendation for students when they apply for scholarships, exchange programmes, internships, and jobs. A good letter of recommendation requires time and preparation. A hastily written, platitudinous letter does the recommendee no favours and reflects badly on the recommender. These are some guidelines for students requesting references.

  • Choose recommenders who know you in a capacity relevant to the purpose of the recommendation. If you are applying for a PhD scholarship, approach people who are familiar with advanced study you have done (say at honours level) rather than someone who taught you in a first-year unit.
  • Explain the purpose – and form of the recommendation. What is required? A full letter? A multiple-choice form? Print out the scholarship criteria or job description and give this to your recommender.
  • If what you are applying for requires a personal statement from you, give your recommender a draft of it, so that you and the person writing for you are ‘on the same page’.
  • Provide your recommenders with as much relevant information as you can, such as a CV and an academic transcript. Offer to give them copies of the essays they gave you high marks for last year or the year before (ideally with their comments on). The more specific they can be about your distinctive brand of accomplishment, the better.
  • Fill out any forms as completely as possible. Don’t leave it to the recommender to write in your full name, email address and phone number. They may not know this information, and this could cause delays.
  • Give your recommender a stamped, addressed envelope for the letter. They may be writing it from home, not putting it in the university mail. Few organizations accept emailed references.
  • Thank your recommenders and let them know the outcome of your application. We want to know how you do!