How to ask for an Academic Reference
This checklist will help keep you organized when asking for academic references when applying to academic programs.
- Know why you want to apply, including specifics of your research interests
- Know the deadlines for reference letters and submission requirements
Ask Your Professor
- Ask your reference if they can provide you with a strong reference
- Try to do this about 2 months prior to the deadline and ask them in person (if possible)
Give Your Referee the Details
- If they agree, provide them with the important information over email. You may want to include:
- Unofficial transcript
- Summary of program, deadlines, how they need to submit the reference
- A few sentences about why you want to apply to the program or your statement of intent
- Your research interests (if applicable)
- Any specific forms they need
- Include any information you are hoping they will talk about in their reference
- For instance, if your lab supervisor writes a reference, would you like them to talk more about your teamwork or technical skills or both?
- 3 weeks before the deadline see if your reference has any questions or if they’d like any additional information.
- If 2-3 days prior to deadline you notice nothing has been submitted, touch base with your reference and
- remind them of the deadline. Ask them if there is any information they need.
- Thank your reference. Handwritten thank you cards are a great place to start.
- Let your reference know where you ended up.
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