The Graduate School Letter of Recommendation Form

Most graduate school applications provide applicants with a specific letter of recommendation form to be completed by faculty. The form is either available online as a downloadable pdf document or an integral component of the online application form. In some cases faculty’s email are submitted as part of the application and the graduate school will contact the faculty for your recommendations. The Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS) and American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) provide their own program-specific letter of recommendation forms. Visit the Law School Admission Information website and Medical School Admission Information website  for information about the LSDAS and AMCAS formats.

The FERPA waiver

The form offers the applicant the opportunity to waive the rights associated with the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). By signing the FERPA waiver (or checking the box on an on-line form), the applicant surrenders the right to ever see the letter, whether the applicant is admitted or not. If you sign the FERPA waiver, the graduate program will understand that the person writing the letter of recommendation is being honest and candid in the letter, knowing that you will never see the letter. Therefore, letters of recommendation accompanied by a FERPA waiver signature carry greater validity in the eyes of graduate program selection committees.

When to Ask Professors

As you consider when to ask professors for letters of recommendation, be mindful of the application deadline (the date by which the letter must reach the graduate program) and how incredibly busy your professors are with preparing lessons, conducting research, correcting papers/exams, and other non-teaching related responsibilities, such as curriculum revision and search committee work to hire new faculty. Also consider the reality that you’re one of many students seeking a letter of recommendation. For all of these reasons, it’s important to give professors ample time to write the letter of recommendation. If possible, ask them early in the semester (at least two months in advance), before they are consumed with correcting mid-term and final exams.

How to Ask Professors

You are encouraged to request a letter of recommendation in writing. As you can see from the sample letter of request below, the student provides the professor with the graduate schools’ letter of recommendation forms, a list of schools to which the student is applying, directions for how to submit the recommendation, a summary of courses taken with the professor, examples of larger projects and papers completed for the courses taken with the professor, the grades earned in the courses, the student’s GPA, and a summary of extracurricular and work activities. Professors usually welcome all of this information as it helps remind them of your achievements, which makes it easier for them to reference the achievements in the letter they write. If you do not provide this information, you are counting on professors to accurately recollect who you are and what you accomplished in their classes. If you prompt their memory with specific examples, you enhance their ability to cite specific examples of your accomplishments. And, a letter of recommendation containing specific examples is a stronger letter of recommendation.

Sample Letter of Request

Sept. 15, 2012

Dear Dr. Rankin,

I’m writing to ask if you would be willing to write me a supportive letter of recommendation for my graduate school applications to the counselor education programs at the University of Maine, the University of Southern Maine, and the University of New Hampshire. The application deadline for each school is February 15. I have enclosed a recommendation form required by each application and signed the FERPA waiver indicating that I surrender my right to see the letter at any time.

As you may recall, I have taken two courses with you: Child Counseling and Psychopathology and Introduction to Counseling and Personality. I earned an A- in each course and wrote my 10-page final papers on The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Children with Bi-Polar Disorder and The Influence of Adlerian Psychology on the Work of Dreikurs. Currently, my GPA is 3.47.

I also have enclosed a copy of my resume so you can see the extracurricular and work experience I have amassed during my four years at UMF. I think my part-time work as a Behavioral Specialist I for Atlantic Home Health Services has given me useful direct service experience. My clients have included children ages 7 to 12 with Opposition Defiant Disorder, ADHD, Autism, and mild mental retardation. Working one-to-one with these children has given me the opportunity to move from theory to practice with the concepts I learned in your Child Counseling and Psychopathology course.

Thank your for considering my request for letters of recommendation. If you would like further information, please feel welcome to contact me at x7232 or jack.johnson@maine.edu.

Sincerely,

(Jack’s signature goes here)

Jack Johnson

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