Carnegie Mellon University

Letters of Recommendation

Some guidelines and suggestions on getting letters of recommendation.

Most graduate schools require letters of recommendation from people who can evaluate your chances of success in their program. This is one of the reasons why you should get involved in research early so you have established relationships with people who will write you letters. Ideally, the people writing letters are faculty members working in the field you are applying to.

You should always ask the people, who you want to write letters for you, if they are willing to write a letter for you before you put them down on the applications as letter writers. It is courtesy to give them at least 1-2 weeks to write your letter, and you should waive the right to view their letter in the application.

It is a good idea to help the letter writers by providing them with information they may need. Below are some examples of information that will be helpful, particularly if you do not know the writer very well. Be proactive, have this information prepared and send it to the letter writer after they agree to write the letter. At a minimum you need to tell them what the letter is for, when the letter is due, and how it should be submitted.

Most letters are submitted electronically now, but occasionally some are still mailed.  Make sure the forms are completed with your information and provide an addressed envelope for the letter.

Finally, keep in touch with the letter writer. Let them know if you get accepted, and where you decide to go. 


Letter of recommendation information template:

  1. Your name:
  2. Purpose of Recommendation Letter:
  3. Due date:
  4. Special instructions (where to send the letter, how to send it, what website to find the forms, etc.)
  5. Tell me at least two things (preferably in paragraph form) you would like in the letter. These can be special strengths, unique experiences, anything that makes you an obvious candidate for what you are being recommended, your role in extracurricular activities, etc.  This information may help me write the best letter for you.
  6. Please attach a copy of your CV/resume to this document or to the email you send this document in.
  7. Attach any other documents you think may help me write the letter, e.g. essays you have written for the application, etc.

Email this information to the letter writer.