Letters of Recommendation
Most graduate schools will require two or three letters of recommendation. Recommendations from faculty members are essential for academically-oriented programs; professional programs may seriously consider nonacademic recommendations from professionals in the field. Use this form to assist you with preparing to speak with a faculty member regarding a letter of recommendation.
It is important that the people you choose to write your recommendations know you well enough to compose a meaningful letter. Once you've identified likely candidates, make an appointment to talk with them. Explain your goals and why you've chosen the potential writer as one of your recommenders. Ask whether the person is able to write a strong letter for you. Bring materials such as a copy of your transcripts, a resume, your essay, and/or a copy of a research paper which will assist them in commenting on your strengths. If the school provides their own recommendation forms, be sure to bring them with you, along with stamped, addressed envelopes. NEVER put a request for a recommendation in a professor's mailbox without first having a conversation about your request.
Finally, it is your responsibility to ensure that your application is completed on time. It is always good advice to follow up with your recommenders to ensure that your letter has been submitted. Always write a thank you note to those who serve as recommenders.
Most application materials can be found on an institution’s website. However, it is acceptable to contact the graduate school or program chair directly via telephone or email to request an application and/or course catalog. If writing, be certain to do so in a professional manner.
Keep track of what each institution and program requires to complete your admission file, as these requirements will vary. Note deadlines carefully. Most graduate school programs require application materials to be submitted between December and March for enrollment the following fall. Schools using a rolling application policy review applicants as they apply up until the deadline; in these cases, it is best to apply early.
Your Personal Statement or Essay
Most graduate and professional programs have a set of questions prepared for you to respond to in the form of an essay or personal statement. The essay should be a clear, succinct statement showing that you have a definite sense of what you want to do and enthusiasm for the field of study you have chosen. Your essay should reflect your writing abilities; more importantly, it should reveal the clarity, the focus, and the depth of your thinking. As the personal essay is a short piece, it is crucial that you organize your thoughts, and then refine, simplify, and polish your ideas. Be certain that your essay is neat, grammatically correct, and devoid of any errors. Be sure to ask faculty or an CCI adviser to critique your essay.
If the program to which you are applying does not ask you to answer specific questions, try to include the following basic elements in your personal statement:
- How did your interest in this area of study evolve? What has led you here to the point of applying for graduate school?
- What are your long-term career goals and how will this graduate education help you accomplish these? If you can frame it in terms of a personal vision or mission, even better.
- What experiences have you had or skills/traits do you possess that will make you successful in this program and in the career field? Don’t forget to consider any publications or presentations at academic conferences or other academic, internship, work, or volunteer experiences that may be relevant or provide insight into who you are.
- Why are you applying to this particular school?
Resources for Writing your Personal Statement/Essay
- Writing the Personal Statement, Purdue University
- Graduate School Statements, UCAL Berkeley
- Writing the essay, personal statement or letter of intent, St. Olaf
- Graduate & Professional School Essay Writing, MIT
- Graduate School Admissions Advice, about.com
Available in the CCI Library:
- Graduate School Admissions Essays, by Donald Asher
- Graduate School Admissions Adviser, by a nationwide team of graduate school admissions advisers.
- How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate School, by Richard J. Stelzer
Other Graduate School Resources
Submitting Completed Applications
When you have completed all of your parts of the application, make copies of all the application materials as a back-up. Once all of your materials have been submitted, contact the graduate admission office to see that all have been received. It is your responsibility to make sure your file at the graduate school admissions office is complete.
We suggest that students consider using Interfolio,an online system that streamlines the process of maintaining and sending references.
- Employers and graduate schools receive sensitive credentials information such as transcripts (official or unofficial), writing samples, letters of reference (confidential or open), examples of work, awards/certificates/proof of graduation, or other documents from applicants in a secure and convenient way.
- The process begins when an applicant visits the site and creates an account.
- Payment can be made by major credit card or other convenient methods.