Letters of recommendation are an essential part of your application to SIPA. SIPA’s application requires two letters of recommendation. In order to have a strong recommendation letter, you must set yourself and your academic/professional reference writer up for success. Here are some tips on how to do that!

The first piece of advice I recommend is to ASK EARLY! You should reach out to your recommendation letter writer with a reference letter request at least 1-2 months before your deadline. This gives the recommender more time to write an awesome letter for you and a lot less anxiety for you when you’re putting together the application.

Your letters of recommendation should be both or either profession and academic references. Professional and academic references rely on how well your recommenders know you. A reference letter from someone who knows you and your work well is stronger than a reference letter from someone who is higher up in your organization, but won’t be able to give you a detailed reference letter. For students with significant work experience (i.e.10 years of work experience), most of your references can be professional. Students with less professional experience, should have at least one academic reference.

For academic reference:

  • Once you find a professor who knows you and your work well, make sure the professor is willing and has the time to write you a strong recommendation. Once the recommender agrees to write you a reference letter, tell them that you will follow up with them by sending them information about your work and goals that can assist them as they write the reference letter. Among the documents that can help your recommendation writer are:
  • A resume with your work experience and academic credentials, include your extra-curricular activities and any awards or honors you have received.
  • Your unofficial transcript. Your transcript gives your professor insight into your complete academic journey. It helps them speak to the rigor of your curriculum.
  • A list of classes taken with the professor.
  • Examples of work in your class with the professor. Highlight work you’re proud of to your professor and encourage them to incorporate your work in their letter.
  • Draft of your application essay. After you’ve asked your professor for a reference letter, ask them if they’d want a draft of your application essay. Have a strong draft ready to email to your professor alongside the aforementioned documents. This will give the recommender a clear idea of your goals for pursuing this program
  • Permission to follow up. By asking your professor for a reference early, you may ask the professor if you may follow up in 2 weeks or whatever timeline is just for both parties. This ensures that your professor has time to write the letter and gives you time to ensure that they don’t forget.

Professional Reference Letters:

  • Many of the tips for academic reference letters apply to professional reference letters. Ask early, have examples of your work available, provide your reference with a draft of your goals/application essay, and follow up.
  • If you no longer work with the recommender, provide an updated resume for their reference, including the dates and tasks you had while working with them.
  • If they are not familiar with the program, be sure to have a conversation about the degree and your ultimate goals
  • Remind them of specific projects or tasks you worked on at the job so that they can illustrate your skills (rather than list your characteristics/skills). If your recommender can tell a story, this illuminates a new aspect of your experience that your resume might not be able to capture.

The last, and most important step, is to write a Thank-You note once your reference letter has been submitted and update your reference writer on the outcome of your application!

Keep your eye on the deadlines for when you are applying and make sure to stay on top of them! Wishing you the best of luck.