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How to get letters of recommendation for grad school

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Women reading a letter for recommendation for graduate school

Applying to graduate school is a significant milestone. Compelling letters of recommendation, which play a crucial role in being admitted to the program, are critical to a strong application. These letters provide valuable insights into an applicant’s character, achievements, and potential. Here are some effective strategies on how to get letters of recommendation for grad school.

Choose recommenders strategically

You’ve worked hard to build a career foundation by finishing your undergraduate degree and succeeding in your professional life. Throughout that time you have no doubt started building strong connections with professors, mentors, and managers.

So, how do you stand out from the crowd and make deeper, more personal connections? Attend office hours, volunteer for projects, engage in discussions related to work or coursework. This will help foster relationships based on mutual respect and shared academic or professional interests. By establishing rapport, you create a foundation for a compelling grad school letter of recommendation.

Select recommenders who can speak to your abilities, work ethic, and personal qualities. Professors or managers who know you well and have seen your progress are great options. It’s important to ensure that the recommender can provide specific examples and anecdotes that highlight your strengths and potential as a graduate student.

Help craft your grad school letter of recommendation 

1. Communicate your goals and aspirations

When requesting a grad school letter of recommendation, clearly articulate your academic and career goals. Explain why you are applying and how the specific program aligns with your interests.

Our online Master of Public Administration program offers graduate certificates in Public Policy or City and County Management. These certificates can help applicants achieve their career goals. This information enables recommenders to highlight your suitability for the program and demonstrate your commitment to the field.

2. Provide supporting materials 

To help your recommenders write compelling letters, provide them with a comprehensive package, which should include:

These materials offer valuable context and ensure that they have a complete picture of your achievements. 

3. Offer clear instructions and helpful resources

When someone agrees to take the time to write your grad school recommendation letter, give them all the details about the program you’re applying to. This should include the application deadline, instructions, any required forms, and a link to the program’s website. Providing recommenders with a clear roadmap, including a deadline, will facilitate their writing process and help them submit letters on time.

Take it a step further by offering reliable resources on how to write a letter of recommendation for graduate school. This can help a professional colleague who might not have as much experience writing letters of recommendation as an academic professor.

Tips on Grad School Letters of Recommendation from an MPA Online Admissions Counselor  

Securing stellar letters of recommendation is critical to any successful graduate program application. By developing strong relationships with mentors, strategically selecting recommenders, and providing comprehensive supporting materials, you can maximize your chances of obtaining compelling letters. Remember to communicate your goals effectively and even offer guidance through a draft letter. With these strategies in mind, you are well-equipped to obtain strong letters of recommendation on your path to graduate school.

Leonard Slutsky

“A recommender can speak to the applicant’s ability to perform at the graduate level, and demonstrate necessary soft-skills for success in the program such as communication or working as a team.”

Leonard Slutsky, Manager of Marketing and Admissions for Online Programs, USC Sol Price School of Public Policy

The USC MPA program online looks for both academic and professional references. If the student is an experienced professional, they may be permitted to submit only professional references. If you’re unsure speak to a USC Price Online admissions counselor at [email protected].

Follow up and express gratitude 

After requesting grad school letters of recommendation, remember to send a thank-you email or note to your recommenders. Express your appreciation for their time and effort. USC Online calls this a “crucial final step” because “They took the time to write something that could help change your life, so be sure to express gratitude for that, whether it’s an email, thank-you card or personalized letter.”

Additionally, keep them informed about your application outcomes. This gesture strengthens your professional relationships and ensures a continued connection in the future.

Start your application. 

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Connect with the USC Price admissions team.

Fill out the form or give us a call at (213) 764-5999 to learn more about our online programs.

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