University of Minnesota
Department of English

Department of English

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation play a crucial part in your application for scholarships, employment, graduate and professional programs, and volunteer positions. Familiarize yourself with the procedures involved in requesting such letters and in following through on your requests. CLA operates a Recomendation Letter Service with Interfolio.

Clarify Your Purpose

Your first step is to determine what sort of letter you need.

  • For a job, determine what qualifications your recommender should emphasize.
  • For a scholarship, determine what academic work you believe represents you at your best.
  • For a graduate or professional program, determine what qualities, both academic and personal, seem the most essential to address.

Select Your Recommenders

Once you know what you would like your recommender to say, consider who he or she will be.

  • For letters that address your academic and scholarly abilities, a tenured faculty member in your field with whom you have had one or more classes is a good choice. It helps, too, if you have at least occasionally talked with such a faculty member on a personal level.
  • If you are preparing an application for employment, current employers (on or off campus) are ideal choices, although instructors might also be able to provide relevant information based on their experiences with you in classes (in terms of participation, engagement, quality of work, and respect for deadlines).

Request the Letter

When you have a recommender in mind, approach her or him with the simple request, "Would you be willing to write a letter of recommendation for me for (name the specific purpose)?" Approach people as early as possible so that they have sufficient time to write the best possible letters. After the person has indicated such willingness, your next step is to provide appropriate information. This should include:

  • The purpose of the letter and the date on which it is due.
  • The person, office, or committee to whom/which the letter should be addressed (include a stamped, addressed envelope).
  • A copy of your resume and your transcript.
  • A statement of your educational interests or intent and how they are related to the purpose for which the letter is being written (see Personal Statement); a course paper that you wrote for the recommender if she or he is an instructor; and possibly a more recent sample of your writing, if this seems appropriate.

After the letter has been written, send a thank you note to your recommender. Once you learn the outcome of your application, especially if the news is good, let your recommender know.

Establish a Recommendation Letters File

If you are applying to graduate school, you can open a recommendation letters file through Career Services (411 Science Teaching & Student Services Building, 612-624-7577).

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