Details to Give Recommendation Letter Writers

Portrait of a young woman getting the mail

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If you have someone writing a recommendation letter for you, what information do they need to make it stand out? First, assume that your letter writer will not remember all the details about your credentials that you will want to highlight in the letter. That said, you will need to provide all the information that you think may be helpful or that you would like to see in the letter of recommendation. It makes it easiest for the writer, who is donating their time to do you a huge favor, so putting together comprehensive information is completely worth it.

Making this information easily available for your recommendation letter writer can go a long way to produce a dazzling, "you're in" kind of letter.

What Goes Into a Recommendation Letter

Create a folder or include these details in an email to the person writing your rec letter. 

  • The Correct Spelling of Your Name
  • Your GPA
  • List of Relevant Courses Taken— note if you were a member of a class or project together
  • Titles and Abstracts of Any Research Papers You Have Written
  • Honor Societies to Which You Belong
  • Awards That You Have Won
  • Activities in Which You Have Participated (professionally relevant only)
  • Relevant Work Experience
  • Service Activities such as Volunteer Work
  • A Description of Your Professional Goals
  • A Curriculum Vitae
  • Copies of Admissions Essays
  • Information About Your Experiences with the Letter Writer (e.g., courses taken, copies of papers, etc.) Sometimes that person may not remember you until you refresh their memory.

Who Makes a Good Recommendation Letter Writer?

Sometimes it can be difficult to choose someone to write you a recommendation letter. You may want to choose a professor you clicked within the past, but it also pays to vary the pool of writers. Perhaps a supervisor from a job or volunteer opportunity can attest to your strengths and ability to balance multiple tasks just as well as a professor. A guidance counselor, or advisor from an extracurricular activity is also a great choice. You don't want to pick a friend; instead, stick to people who are familiar with your academic and related skills.

The best person to write a recommendation letter for you is someone who knows you well and can provide a glowing testimonial of your ability to perform well.

Some of those sources can be:

  • An undergrad professor you've worked with
  • Someone who has earned the degree which you are seeking in your graduate work
  • A person with an advanced degree who has supervised you in a job or internship that relates to the program in which you are applying
  • A source who has academically evaluated you in an upper-division class