Published: July 5, 2022

Flatirons with red flowers

1. Recommendation letters are a critical part of your application

Used by the department admission committees to determine your specialized accomplishments, leadership and team participation, work ethic and character and to assess whether or not you will be a good fit for their program.

2. Whom to ask to serve as writer

  • If you are still doing your undergraduate studies or have recently graduated, letters from your instructors are ideal. 

  • If you have been away from school and lost touch with faculty, three strong letters from supervisors or colleagues can vouch for your professional accomplishments, work ethic and character. 

  • Letters should come from individuals who already have their own master’s and can comment on why they believe you will do well at this level of study. Ask early on to give the writers a good amount of time to write their letters.

3. Materials to provide your selection of referees

Inform the writers they will receive an email link to upload their letter after you submit your application and pay your app fee online.

To receive a good letter of recommendation, provide your writers one of more of the following information: 

  • Transcript(s)
  • Admission essays
  • Research and/or teaching experiences
  • Expertise via skills trainings / badges, etc. outside of academia
  • Honor societies or other groups to which you belong
  • Awards
  • Resume/work experience
  • List of programs you are applying to
  • Your contact information for questions (e.g. email, phone number)

4. What not to do when requesting a letter of recommendation

  • Do not provide your documentation piece meal and don't delay the writer’s receipt of it.

  • Do not ask for a non-confidential letter; admissions committees give more weight to confidential letters, perceiving their writers to be more candid.

5. Final thoughts

  • Give your writer plenty of time (3-4 weeks) to write their letter.

  • Consider meeting with the writer to let them know your intentions so they can thoughtfully decide on their ability to provide such a letter for you. 
  • If you haven’t heard on the status around 2 weeks prior to the deadline, send a friendly reminder. 
  • Finally, send your writer a thank you note with the status of your application. They are invested in your success and will want to know how you’re moving forward in the process.