School of Psychology Undergraduate Programs

Letters of Recommendation

Your transition to postgraduate activities will require obtaining letters of recommendation. There are several strategies and procedures for doing this that will increase your postgraduate options.

Letters from Whom?

The person you select to write the letter is very important. Choose people who can write about your character, talents, and academic skills. People to consider asking may include your advisor, professors, an employer, and community leaders. Do not ask family members because their comments are not as credible. Applications to graduate schools require three or four letters.

Good Sources of Letters

  • Your academic advisor
  • Your thesis supervisor, if you are writing a senior thesis
  • Your internship supervisor, if you have chosen the internship option
  • A faculty member with whom you have worked closely, such as on a research project
  • A faculty member with whom you have taken several classes, and received good grades
  • Applicants to applied psychology programs should have a letter from a person with whom you have worked in an appropriate applied setting. Applicants to a research-oriented graduate program should have a letter from a research supervisor.

Poor Sources of Letters

  • A faculty member with whom you have only taken one or two classes, unless one of the classes was a seminar
  • Your therapist
  • A graduate student, unless you worked closely with the student on her or his thesis over an extended period of time
  • A close relative
  • A minister or priest, unless you are applying to a religiously-oriented organization or the writer has a special relationship with you related to your postgraduate plans (e.g., in a lay pastoral counseling organization)

Planning Ahead!

Plan for the request

If you expect to apply for graduate school, start thinking about whom you might ask for letters during your Junior year. From the list of "good sources", above, ask yourself whom you think you could ask. Plan your activities in college with this goal in mind.

Give the writer enough time

Many graduate schools have early applications deadlines, some in December of the year prior to a Fall Semester entry. Faculty members are busy and the longer they have to write the letter, the better the chances it will arrive on time. Give the letter writer at least a month prior to the due date of the first application.. Note that he or she will likely send all the letters at the same time, so the first due date is the most important.

How to Request for Letters

Ask the letter writer if he or she would write a good letter for you. You may ask “Do you feel comfortable writing a letter for me” or “Do you think you can write a strong letter of recommendation for me?” If the answer is positive, ask him or her what is needed from you to help write an informative letter. If there are any special circumstances in your application, discuss them with the writer. For example, if you have a certain kind of relevant skill; your GRE scores are poor; you did not do well Freshman year so your GPA is low; or perhaps you would like to gain some special kind of training in graduate school. The information you give the writer, in addition to the information in your resume and your personal statement, are important sources for the writer.

You should prepare a folder that has the following materials, minimally, and whatever else the writer has requested.

  • A copy of your resume
  • A copy of your "personal statement" that you will include with some of the applications. You should ask you advisor for help with this statement, because it can be very important.
  • A list of the schools to which you are applying that includes the due dates
  • Stamped, addressed envelopes to each of the schools.
  • An email that includes a plain text file of the addresses to which the letters should be sent, with the addresses arranged vertically, not horizontally (to facilitate mail merge functions).
  • The forms that most schools require along with the letter. This form usually includes a waiver of your right to view the letter, which you should sign. Be sure to fill in all the student parts of the form.

Reminders

Don't assume that the letter writer will remember to write the letter on time! Faculty are busy doing many different things and are often working against deadlines, so they sometimes forget. A week before the first letter is due, go to the writer's office and ask politely if "any additional information is needed to help write my letters". Email is also very effective.

Are the Letters Saved Forever?

Letter writers differ in how long they keep your letter in paper or digital form. Florida Tech does not have a central recommendation letter repository. If you expect to use the letter again, ask the writer to hold on to it.

Can I See the Letter?

Probably not. Few faculty reveal their letters to students as a matter of policy.

Contact

School of Psychology
150 W. University Blvd.
Melbourne, FL 32901

321.674.8104
psychology@fit.edu