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Getting a Letter of Reference

Page history last edited by Jim Davies 3 years ago

When you need a letter of reference from someone, there are two important things to keep in mind:


1. The person writing you a reference is doing you a favour.

2. The person is probably writing many other letters of reference for many other students at the same time.


A few things follow from this. First, you need to ask the person, nicely, if they will write you a letter, giving them at least two weeks notice, if possible. Also, realize that they are likely to get things confused, so make it as easy for them as possible. You don't want to fall through the cracks.


If a faculty member agrees, send him or her

  1. everything they need to write the letter for you, including forms, if any, he or she needs to fill out,
    1. fill out as much of the form as you can before giving it to him or her
  2. the website he or she needs to go to to write or submit it
  3. all of the information he or she will need to write it
    1. your name
    2. your student number
    3. your NSERC pin, or whatever ID the organization is
  4. your CV  and/or resume
  5. a draft of the recommendation (if this is okay with the letter writer)
  6. the deadline
  7. information on exactly how to submit it


Also, if they are writing multiple letters for you, ask the professor how they want to be communicated with. Some like one single document with all deadlines and instructions, and others (like Jim Davies) prefer each one in a separate emails, with meaningful subject lines such as "Due Sept 28: Jane Doe OGS reference letter" and keep all correspondence regarding this in the same email thread. Send the same information in multiple emails when needed. That is, don't assume they know your student number because you sent it to them in another email. It will be very frustrating for them to go searching through their email for it. 


Also ask the professor if he or she would like to be reminded by email a week (or some other length of time) before the deadline.


I cannot emphasize enough to be absolutely clear about what they need to do.

Do not depend on their knowledge of having done it before, etc.


It's a nice courtesy to later tell the professor if what they were giving you a ref letter for you were successful at or not. 


Good luck!

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