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Letters of Recommendation

Who to Ask to Write You a Letter of Recommendation

Who you ask depends on the nature of the letter of recommendation.

  • If the letter must address your academic performance, then chose a professor who knows your academic work and can write positively and persuasively about you as a student.
  • If you are looking for someone to recommend you for a job, academic performance is important, but you'll want to choose a staff or faculty member who can attest to your ability to be responsible, get along with others, and address the other qualifications for the position.
  • If applying to graduate schools, choose a professor who can, among other things, speak to your ability to do advanced work independently and in a timely fashion.

Since strong letters are written by individuals who know you well as a student and individual, take the time to let at least three professors on campus get to know you both as a student and overall human being. Note, because referees' reputations are at stake, they must be honest when discussing students' strengths and weaknesses.

How to Ask for a Letter

Approach in person the individual you wish to write for you. Give your referee as much information about the purpose of the recommendation. That is, tell whether it is intended for study abroad, employment, internship, scholarship, fellowship, graduate school, law school, medical school, etc. Also give your referee an up-to-date resume and offer to share your cover letter or application essays with him or her. Also offer your referee a self-addressed stamped envelope along with the recommendation form. If the form is electronic, inform your referee about whether it is coming from you or a third party.

We strongly encourage you to do a mock interview at the Liberal Arts and Practice Center (LAPC). We also ask that you to visit LAPC and its website to learn how to compose both a resume and cover letter: https://www.beloit.edu/careerservices/students/.

How Much Time to Give Your Referees

Referees should be given at a minimum two-weeks to a month to complete the recommendation. Less time may suggest you are unprepared or that you procrastinate, which are not good signs.  Some referees will be too busy to write a letter when given short notice. Always provide your referees a deadline and say that you'll check in with them a few days before it's due to provide a friendly reminder.

What Referees are Often Asked to Comment On

For any academic-related field, your referees will be asked to comment on your academic performance, ability to communicate well in writing and orally, intellectual potential, creativity and originality, motivation for continuing your studies, promise of professional success, and level of maturity. Others may want to know how well you work both independently and in groups, handle challenges and multiple deadlines, as well as deal with unfamiliar material.  Look carefully at the recommendation form to see what your referees will be asked to comment on.

For employment purposes, referees may be asked to comment on your level of maturity, a variety of skills -- teamwork, writing, problem-solving, analytical, listening , oral communication--, intellectual ability, ability to take initiative, global/diverse perspectives, demonstrated leadership, and further leadership potential.

How many of these positive attributes can and do your professors use to describe you?

Talented
Above average
Outstanding
Hard-working
Responsive to feedback
Persevering
Diligent
Motivated
Independent
Responsible
Reliable
Open-minded
Self-controlled
Dependable
Honest
Takes initiative
Adaptable
Flexible
Mature
Articulate
Capable
Analytical
Conscientious
Serious
Friendly
Dedicated
Team player
Decisive
Driven
Creative
Challenges him/herself
Respectful
Knowledgeable
Persistent
Curious
Patient
Perceptive
Positive
Collegial
Confident
Enthusiastic
Studious