Whether you are registering with the College's Career Center, applying to graduate programs in psychology or some other area, or in search of a vocational position, you will undoubtedly be asked to furnish letters of recommendation from your major professors. Perhaps you will be given forms to have filled out, or perhaps the letter can be more individualistic. In any event, there is a protocol to be followed when requesting someone to serve as a referee.

  1. Ask for a letter well before the date it is due. Nothing is more irritating to the referee than to be asked to write a letter of recommendation under pressure.
  2. Ask the referee cordially and formally. A handwritten note slipped under the door with "I need these 10 letters out by Friday" will not evoke the kindest recommendation. You are requesting a significant favor; do itpolitely and sensitively.
  3. Be sure to supply the following information as a minimum: 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.
  4. Also, and this is important, provide the full name, title, and complete mailing address of the person to whom a letter should be written.
  5. Check with the referee to see if he/she prefers prestamped and/or addressed envelopes.
  6. 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 include it with his/her letter or form. If you do not receive the card in a few weeks, check on the status of the letter.
  7. Be sure to indicate for what purpose the letter is being written, (e.g., Master of Science program in child development, probation officer for juvenile substance abuse offenders, etc.). The more specific the purpose, the more specific (and pertinent) the letter.
  8. Waive your rights to read the letter or form. Recipients place more credence on letters which are not read by students. If you are in doubt about the kind of recommendation the referee will write, ask.
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