Information and Guidelines
Requesting References and Letters of Recommendation
This information should also be used if you need to ask a faculty member to be a reference for you when you apply for a job even though they may not need to write a letter for you. They will, however, be called to discuss you and your abilities, so the more information you provide, the better.
Virtually all graduate schools request one or more (typically three) letters of recommendation from faculty who know you well. These letters are extremely important and should not be treated lightly. If you have been properly preparing yourself for graduate study in psychology, there should be several faculty members who you feel confident would be able to write a positive letter of recommendation for you.
You should approach the faculty members you have selected to write recommendations for you as early as possible in order to determine their willingness to write for you. Most faculty who feel they cannot write a good letter will either say so directly or will suggest that you contact another faculty member who “knows you better” (or they tell you they are too busy, it's been too long, they don't know you well enough, or that you will be disappointed in the letter they would write). This is a good thing they are telling you this so you can approach someone else who will be able to comment better on your behalf. Once you have obtained the agreement of a faculty member to write in your support, there is much you can do to make the job easier. In order to enable the faculty member to write the best possible letter, you should provide the kind of information listed below. It will help personalize and individualize your recommendation and make the writing of your letter easier for the faculty member, especially at those times when the faculty member may be writing letters for a number of different students. If you are not willing and able to compile this information for your letter writers, then that raises the question of why someone should spend their time writing a letter on your behalf. The more you can provide and the more professional you are in this process, the better the letters and recommendations will be.
Feel free to speak well of yourself and stress your strong points in the material you provide to your references--if you do not think you are good and deserving of the program or position you are applying for, how can anyone else think so?
The following specific items of information (or as many as is practical) should be supplied to each faculty member who will write letters of recommendations for you.
- A list of all letters to be sent along with the deadline for their receipt, who it is sent to (name/address), and how it should be sent (e.g. electronically, mail directly to the school, picked up by you to be included in the packet). This list should also indicate the type and level of each program to which you are applying (i.e., clinical, counseling, industrial, organizational, experimental, school, social, etc., as well as Master’s, Ph.D., or Psy.D., etc.). Try to give the faculty member at least two weeks to write the letter. Also, it is advisable to check to make sure the letters were received by the school.
- Stamped, addressed envelopes for each letter of recommendation to be sent (the faculty member will take care of the return address). Attach any forms which must be completed to the appropriate envelopes. Make sure to fill out and sign any relevant portions of these forms. Typically you must sign in agreement or disagreement with a waiver that makes the letter confidential. You are strongly encouraged to waive your rights in order to indicate your trust in the letter writer and avoid insulting your letter writer. If you are not confident they will write well on your behalf, you should not ask them. Additionally, some faculty may not write a letter if this is not waived. If
- A copy of your resumé or vita, autobiography, or a similar statement
- If any of the schools to which you are applying request a statement of purpose or goals from you, provide a copy to the faculty member.
- A copy of your transcripts.
- A list in outline form containing the following information:
- Current date, name, current address, phone number(s) and, if appropriate, your email address.
- The date you first met the faculty member (which is typically the semester of your first course with the faculty member).
- The type of contact you have had with the particular faculty member (i.e., list of classes taken and grades received, advisee, teaching or research assistant, informal contact, etc.).
- Information regarding your academic achievement including your GPA, major(s) and minor(s), academic strengths and weaknesses, the relationship between your academic preparation and the program or job for which you are applying.
- Anything extra or unique about your academic background such as honors received, research experiences, departmental assistantships, work study positions, independent reading or research, specialized computer skills, etc.
- If you have obtained Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores or the results of other such standardized tests, report these.
- Highlight your non-academic background including jobs, hobbies, sports, community work, political or social involvements, semester abroad, travel, etc.
- If the letter of recommendation is for a job, include some kind of a job description.
- Provide any other information that will enable the faculty member to write you a strong letter.
- Also needed is written approval indicating your consent to release information about you in order to comply with FERPA regulations. Please read this statement below from the Oregon Tech webpage on FERPA.
Requesting Letters of Reference or Recommendation from Faculty or Staff
Students who request letters of reference or recommendation from Oregon Tech faculty or staff members need to do so in writing. Such letters or statements are most effective if they contain specific information about academic or work performance of the student; this type of information is considered “non-directory” information and cannot be released without the signed written consent of the student, according to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Information to be included in the written consent:
- What information is to be released (be as specific as possible)
- To whom the information is to be released (name, address)
- The purpose of the release of information
- Student signature and date
NOTE: Since the faculty member is expending considerable time in writing a letter of recommendation for you, it would be common courtesy to keep the faculty member informed of the result of your application process. They want to know how things turn out for you!