Whether you are applying to graduate or law school, whether you are looking for a job, trying to find an internship, etc... you will undoubtedly be asked to furnish letters of recommendation from your professors. In all these instances there is a protocol to be followed when requesting someone to serve as a recommendation/reference.
It is the policy of the faculty in Political Science that you read the following carefully before making a request and that you adhere to the steps:
- ASK EARLY: Ask for a letter well before the date it is due. Nothing is bound to cause your potential reference more irritation than to be asked to write a letter under pressure.
- PUT YOUR REQUEST IN WRITING: Ask the referee cordially and formally (in writing). A handwritten note slipped under the door with "I need these 10 letters out by Friday" or an off-handed remark in the hallway after class will not evoke the kindest recommendation. You are requesting a significant favor; do it politely, formally, sensitively, cordially, and in writing (email is fine!).
- PROVIDE THE DEADLINE (date when letter is due)!: You must tell your referee when the letters are due and keep in mind it may take a week or more for a letter to get from campus mail to the appropriate institution/individual.
- PROVIDE YOUR RESUME (or basic information): As part of your written request be sure to provide a resume OR at minimum the following information: your full name, major classes taken (also when and grade earned) from the referee and other classes taken in the department, relevant classes taken in other departments, special skills or talents, statement of career interests and goals, list of professionally relevant extracurricular and summer activities, honors, professional associations, formal research experience (papers written, read, submitted for publication), and anything else which would serve to identify you and your strengths. Look at a standard recommendation form to get an idea of the information asked for. What is asked for, you provide.
- WHO IS THE LETTER GOING TO?: Provide the full name, title, and complete mailing address of the person to whom a letter should be written.
- ADDRESSED ENVELOPE: Check with the referee to see if he/she prefers prestamped and/or addressed envelopes. At minimum you must provide addressed envelopes.
- PURPOSE OF LETTER: Be sure to indicate why the letter is being written, (e.g., Master of Public Policy program, law school, etc.). The more specific the purpose, the more specific (and pertinent) the letter.
- WAIVE YOUR RIGHTS TO READ THE LETTER: Waive your rights to read the letter or form. Recipients place more credence on letters which are not read by students and faculty will not provide letters unless you waive your rights to access them.
- SIGNED FORMS: If you are applying to law school, graduate school etc... the institution often provides some type of form that you are asked to sign and give to the referee. Make sure you do that (and sign it)!
- OPTIONAL – SELF/ADDRESSED STAMPED POSTCARD: If you want verification the letter was sent do not email or call your referee. Instead think ahead and prepare a self-addressed (to you), stamped postcard with the message on the back: "To (whomever the letter of recommendation is to be sent): Please mail this card if a letter of recommendation concerning me has been received from (whomever you are asking to write)." Sign your name, and ask the referee to send it when the letter is put in the mail.
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