Letters of Recommendation and References

 by Stefanie Lucas-Waverly

As an aspiring (or current) student affairs professional, you will likely request and write a number of recommendation letters or request references. References and recommendations tend to be asked frequently this time of year, and those who are asked are likely to be asked by multiple folks.

Here are a few tips when asking:
  • Identify three to four references that can speak directly to your experience. Graduate schools often require references from a faculty member, so it is important to read through requirements. 
  • Ask your reference if he or she is willing to provide a reference for you. Have an open conversation with him or her about what type of reference they are willing to provide. 
  • Always provide the job description or program description to the reference or recommender. The more information you can provide the better equipped the recommender. 
  • Give plenty of time for a written recommendation. A month is often preferable, but others have shared with me at least two weeks. Ask the recommender how much time he or she will need. 
  • Provide your resume, statement of purpose, or answers to questions from your application you feel comfortable sharing. Give your reference a solid understanding of your interest in the position or program. 
  • Keep your reference appraised on the status of your search. Let him or her know what positions you are really excited about and why so he or she can speak to your interest. 
  • Thank your reference or recommender for their time. A written thank you note or email is appropriate.

I recently completed a recommendation and a student provided me her resume and a list of questions she responded to from a faculty member who was also writing a recommendation. The faculty member asks students to fill out this questionnaire to more fully understand the student’s experience and interest in his or her graduate school or professional endeavors. I felt very confident in recommending this student, and reading through her responses gave me a deeper understanding of her commitment to her future studies.

What tips do you have for asking for references and recommendations?

Student Affairs - the First Years

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