Recommendations: Help them help you!

For those of you planning to apply by the January 10 application deadline, you should by now have lined up recommenders. If you haven’t yet done so, don’t panic, but also don’t delay any longer! January 10, while still well over a month away, is effectively closer than it seems. Keep in mind that many people – particularly potential academic recommenders – are likely entering one of the busiest times of the year, both professionally and personally. Final exams, holiday preparations, and related travel will be occupying a lot of bandwidth for many; it’s reasonable for them to need as much notice as possible, and probably a few reminders to submit their letters, too.

As often seems to be the case, Jessica has previously provided a thorough set of recommendation tips in this space that remain applicable, and I encourage readers to keep it handy as a reference point (as well as the larger archive of recommendation-related posts from years past). An overarching theme I’ll emphasize is to help your recommenders help you. Giving them as much time as possible to write a letter for you is a great start. If it’s been a while since you’ve had direct contact with your letter writer, it’s best to try to arrange a conversation to get reacquainted, to update them on what you’ve been up to, and to otherwise provide details of your interest in grad school that will help inform their recommendation. Do your best to understand your recommender’s context: is this someone who’s accustomed to writing letters of support, or is this likely to be a new experience? Depending on your recommenders’ backgrounds, they’ll need varying degrees of guidance on the type of letter that will be most helpful to your candidacy. This is a great resource for letter writers less familiar with Fletcher or the types of careers our students and alumni pursue. It’s great if your recommenders are able to poke around the website to learn a bit more about Fletcher, but don’t presume they’ll do so. Give them a hand by doing some of the work for them. A short conversation or a brief email can often encapsulate Fletcher, and your interest in attending, more effectively than any web page.

Now is the time to be working with your recommenders. Help them help you!

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