Archive for letter of recommendation

How to Ask for a Recommendation Letter

As part of the SIPA application, applicants are required to submit at two letters of recommendation. When it comes to submitting these letters, applicants often ask what makes a “good” letter of recommendation. Who should I ask? How do I approach a potential recommender? Well no more fretting. SIPA Admissions is here to help you answer all those questions with a comprehensive guide to letters of recommendation.

Who should I ask?

The SIPA application is looking for students who show an ability to thrive in a policy grad school and into their future careers. A letter of recommendation is the perfect submission for a person to help create that narrative for an applicant. The letter of recommendation should be completed by someone who knows an applicant’s ability and potential in the work place and academically. That person can be anyone who’s worked with you in a professional manner including former professors, bosses, colleagues, or even people you supervised. We don’t suggest that recommenders be people who know you personally but not professionally.

How should I ask a recommender?

The ask can be the hardest part of the recommendation letter process. During the ask, you want to be able to provide your recommender with as much information needed to write a recommendation letter that shows why you would be a good fit for SIPA and your prospective career. So preparing for the information is just as important as actually asking. This can include information on the SIPA website on the type of student the school is looking for, information on the type of career you will be seeking after SIPA, and much more. It would also be helpful to provide your recommender with a resume when asking them to write a letter so can get the full breadth of who you are as a professional and see parts of your professionalism they may not get the chance to know in the aspect that they work with you.

So you’ve gathered all the information and now it’s time to actually ask your recommender to write a letter for you. When you ask, you can email but it may be better to meet with them in person so you can explain why you are asking them specifically, why you are applying to SIPA, and what you’re hoping to gain from SIPA that can bring you to your future career. No matter the medium of your request, be sure to explain your interest in the program and provide them with copies of useful information.

Reminding a recommender?

If a recommender hasn’t sent in their letter yet and it’s close to the deadline, it is always fine to remind them to send it in. You can send them an email and remind them of the date your application is due. Be sure to explicitly remind them that they have a recommendation letter to send. Feel free to have a few back up options for recommenders if you’re cutting it close on the application deadline.

recommendation requests… with little time.

Recently a former colleague (and friend) asked if I could write her a letter of recommendation for graduate school.  Of course, I was happy to do it.  But then she told me that she needed the letter in 5 days.  My excitement turned to anxiety and slight annoyance.  I wanted to write her a glowing recommendation letter since she deserved one — after all she was an excellent colleague (and during our time together she was always professional and on top of everything… and with the greatest detail).  But I couldn’t help wonder why did she wait to the last minute (and yes, for a person writing you a recommendation letter, a week … even two weeks… is considered last minute).  You should always assume that the person writing you a reference letter has other “more” pressing and time sensitive items to complete.  I would love to drop everything I was doing but unfortunately, my job(s) do not allow me that luxury.  I say this all the time but people don’t listen, so I am going to say it again (and probably again in a future post)… Give your Recommenders ample time to write you a glowing letter of recommendation [or you may not get the “seal the deal” one that she/he would have written for you].

Also, yes, even Admissions experts like us, wouldn’t mind receiving a bit of help (especially if you are only giving me a few days to write it).   A few bullet points and/or suggestions on what you would like us to cover in the letter goes a long way.  We have an idea of what a recommendation letter should contain but getting a sense of what you have done (i.e. your achievements and successes) since our last interaction, point out your strengths, and definitely share with us your goals and what you hope to achieve by going to graduate school… is ALWAYS helpful.  I can think of a number of experiences that I think make my friend a strong candidate but they may not be the same as the ones she had in mind so you may want to share with (remind) your Recommender some specific examples from the time you worked together that will highlight your attributes and strengths.  Keep in mind, a strong recommendation should be able to provide the Admissions Committee another layer and insight to your personal and professional values that hopefully will tie together the rest of your application.

One other thing, which thankfully my friend warned me ahead of time (so the email did not end up in my Junk folder), you should inform your Recommender when and how the request will come for the letter.  You should also provide them with some insight as to whether it will be prompted questions or she/he will be expected to write an unsolicited letter .  This will allow them to plan how much effort and time is needed to write the letter (unfortunately for me, I have no time).

These are just a few tips to provide your Recommender — It’s still early in the season but it never hurts to keep these in the back of your mind as you think about who you would like to write your letter of recommendations.  Before you know it, deadlines will be here.  With that… I am off to write my “glowing” letter of recommendation (with a little grumble).


Summer preparation

I hope you are enjoying the photo submissions from our new first year students.   Maybe next year your photos will appear in our blog as an incoming student.  However, first you need to apply and be admitted… and also take some great photos for submission.

Don’t start the application just yet since the 2013 application will not go live until August.  So in the meantime, I suggest you use the summer to learn more about the programs by visiting fairs (we’ll be in DC on July 19 & July 20), scouring school websites, and attending campus information sessions.  You should also prep for the GRE (and TOEFL/IELTS), reconnect with a professor and/or a professional associate who can write you a glowing recommendation and of course think about why you want to pursue a Master’s degree – specifically in international affairs or public administration. This will help you formulate your thoughts and explain to the various Admissions Committees why you are ready for graduate school.  Most importantly, you should explore and experience life — so your discussions in the classroom will be richer.

If you missed it, check out Megan’s post on the July 10th about how she used her summer prior to applying to SIPA.



Top 10 Tips for 2012 Application – #10 Reminding or Deleting Recommendation Letter Writers

Our online application system makes it easy to send reminder messages to those you have asked to compose letters of recommendation for your application to SIPA. You can also easily delete a recommender if it turns out they will not be able to submit a letter on your behalf.

All you have to do to perform these actions is to log into the application site with your PIN and password, click on the “Application for Admission” link on the top of the page and then click on the “Recommendations” link on the left menu.

When you click on the “Recommendations” link you will be taken to a new window. Then click on the “Recommendation Provider List” button and you will see the following (above this text will be the names of the recommenders with a blank box next to each name):

To resend a reminder message simply put a check in the blank box next to the recommender(s) name and then click on the “resend” button and an automated message will go out to email address of the recommender you have placed a check mark next to. Please do note that it is a good idea to let recommenders know to look for an email message Apply Yourself.

If you wish to delete a recommender simply click their name and hit the “Delete” button. After doing this you will then be able to add a new recommender.

Letter of Recommendation Timing

This post serves as an update to Post #2 of our top 10 application tips series which addressed questions related to letters of recommendation.  We are working on posting more tips in the series soon, so stay tuned for more . . .

Question:  Should I wait to submit my application until all of the letters of recommendation have been received?  Or put another way, should I be concerned that when I submit my application a letter of recommendation has not been received?

Answer: No.  Applicants should not be concerned if an application is submitted before a letter or letters of recommendation have been received.  What ultimately matters is that both your application and the letters are submitted by the deadline of January 5th, 2011 at midnight EST.

Your application information exists in one system, and recommendation letter information exists in a separate system.  The two systems are linked so when we print your application letters of recommendation will print at the same time.  This is of course if the letters were submitted via our system.  If a letter has been mailed, we will print your application and if all of the letters are not present, we will perform a search of documents mailed to our office.

So, do not worry if letters of recommendation have yet to be submitted when submitting your application, you may submit your application prior to letters of recommendation being received.  The important thing again is that the letters are either submitted via the online system by the deadline or received via mail by the deadline.

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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