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How to Request Graduate School Recommendation Letters

Nov 30, 2021
Two female professionals sit at a conference table reviewing a piece of paper

The professional world and the world of graduate school have many things in common, and one trait they share is that relationships matter. When you’re applying to graduate school, recommendation letters carry a lot of weight: Strong ones can heighten admissions officers’ confidence that you’ll be an asset to the program, and weak or impersonal ones can create some major red flags.

Even though you won’t be writing your recommendation letters for graduate school, there are steps you can take to help ensure that they present you in the best possible light. Follow these tips to identify your recommenders, inspire them to do their best work and make sure their letters get where they need to go.

Requesting letters of recommendation

After completing your research to identify a program that fits your career goals, review its application requirements, enrollment periods and application deadlines.

Once you have your application deadline firmly in mind, begin identifying a list of recommenders. Reach out to them to confirm their ability to write a letter of recommendation and to meet the application deadline. In your email to your recommenders, consider including a link to the Medill MS in IMC Professional program’s website. Include a few sentences that detail how this graduate program aligns with your professional goals. By giving your recommenders as much time as possible to complete their letters, you’ll demonstrate that you value their thoughts and respect their time.

Choose recommenders who truly know you and your career development.

Letters of recommendation provide insight—perhaps not obvious from your resume—into your potential value as a student. The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications requires two letters, and applicants have the option to submit a third.

With a limited number of recommendation slots, you must think hard about who from your professional or academic life is able to attest to your aptitude and ability to succeed as a graduate student and achieve your professional goals. If you’ve been in the workforce for some time, current or former supervisors are often good candidates.

Remember that you can always reach out to an advisor to ask for details about the kinds of recommenders the program likes to see.

Make your request with confidence and tact.

If you currently work closely with your recommender on a day-to-day basis, you can ask for a letter of recommendation during casual conversation. Simply describe your decision to pursue graduate education, mention how much you appreciate their support and value their opinion, and ask if they would be willing to provide a letter of recommendation.

If you plan to ask a supervisor, consider requesting a 15-minute meeting. Use that time to present your graduate school plan and ask for a letter. Demonstrating respect for your supervisor’s responsibilities in this way can help ensure that that individual has the time to talk with you about your plans for graduate school.

If you plan to ask someone with whom you haven’t recently been in regular contact, such as a professor from several years ago, send a brief email outlining your request.

Clearly communicate submission instructions to your recommenders.

Medill uses an online admissions application system into which you will enter your recommenders’ contact information. Recommenders will receive an email directing them to a secure portal for uploading their letter of recommendation.

Review the submission instructions and contact an advisor if you are unclear about the process. Letters sent by mail should be addressed to:
Medill Graduate Admissions and Financial Aid
Fisk Hall
1845 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208

Our recommendation? Apply to Northwestern’s MS in IMC Professional program.

Once you’ve lined up supportive recommenders who will happily sing your praises, get started on your application to the Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications Professional program. Take a look at the unmatched career support you’ll find at Medill, and check out our tips for crafting a professional statement and refreshing your resume for your graduate school application.