What Do Graduate Schools Look for in Recommendation Letters?

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What do graduate schools look for in recommendation letters? You might be wondering about this as you prepare to enter the next chapter of your education.

What Do Graduate Schools Look for in Recommendation Letters

While there are many aspects to your admissions application, a graduate school letter of recommendation can help demonstrate your preparedness for the program ahead of you.

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Let’s take a look at the components of a top-notch letter of recommendation for masters program admissions.

What Do Graduate Schools Look for in Recommendation Letters?

Professor writing a Graduate School Recommendation Letter

A letter of recommendation for graduate admissions can involve a variety of different processes and preferred formats. So, your first step could be to familiarize yourself with the recommendation letter requirements of the schools you wish to attend.

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A graduate school letter of recommendation doesn’t have to be very long, but it should clearly share the writer’s thoughts about your grad school candidacy.

A letter of recommendation for a masters program typically includes:

  • The writer’s identity and connection to you
  • How long they have been in a position of evaluation or expertise
  • Their observations of your skills in connection to their field
  • Their opinion as to your potential academic success in the program you have chosen
  • Details defining why they feel you would or would not be a good candidate

Generally speaking, a recommendation letter shares knowledge of your expertise and accomplishments. The writer of the letter should also share why they feel you are or are not a good candidate based on their experiences with you.

Essentially, a solid recommendation letter for grad school includes an introduction from the writer, an explanation of how they know you, and an evaluation of your graduate school candidacy and potential for success.

Who Should Write Letters of Recommendation for Grad School?

Internship supervisor giving a Letter of Recommendation for Grad School

It’s beneficial for a grad school letter of recommendation to come from an individual who knows you, your education, your academic performance, and your overall professional goals as well.

Different schools request different types of recommendations. Some common examples are:

  • Academic recommendations from professors, lab instructors, or advisors
  • Professional recommendations written by employers or internship supervisors
  • Leadership recommendations from coworkers, volunteer coordinators, or activity leaders
  • Personal recommendations from mentors or other students

It’s strategic to choose people who have known you and your work for a significant amount of time and can communicate effectively in writing.

Do all graduate schools require letters of recommendation? No, not all. There are graduate schools that don’t require letters of recommendation, just like there are graduate schools with low GPA requirements or no GPA at all. These schools give great consideration to other admissions requirements.

Asking for Graduate School Recommendation Letters

Graduate School students discussing their Recommendation Letters

Once you’ve decided which individuals you will ask to write a graduate school recommendation letter, you’ll have to know how to ask for a recommendation letter for graduate school. You may also wish to discuss your school’s preferred format and what it should include.

Schools ultimately want to understand the recommender’s opinions and thoughts without your input. But, submitting an incorrectly formatted letter that does not include the requested information might lead to that letter being rejected by the school.

A strong letter of recommendation will be succinct and written by an individual who has knowledge of you, your goals, and your ability to succeed in the graduate program you have chosen.

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Jason Collins
Jason earned his bachelor's degree in English Literature from Loyola Marymount University with a minor in history. A life-long learner with a love of philosophy, history, and science, Jason works in professional development, career enrichment, and improved business practices.