I enjoy writing letters of reference for my best students because it gives me a chance to reflect on the skills and abilities I have personally witnessed develop over their time at Winthrop. I put a lot of thought into each letter I write and therefore writing letters is a time-consuming process. If you want me to write a letter of reference for you, I need you to help me by following these steps. I suspect your other references will appreciate you doing these things for them as well, but ask them if there is anything special you can do to make the process easier for them.

1.      Ask for a reference at least two weeks before it has to be submitted or mailed. If you are asking me, bring a signed copy of my FERPA Release form with you. This will grant me permission to discuss your educational record in my recommendation (Dr. Fortner-Wood's FERPA Release Form).

2.     Ask face-to-face. Approach your references during office hours or contact them to schedule a meeting with them to make your request.  

a.     Remind your references in which class(es) or projects they have worked with you.

b.     Remind them if they have written letters for you before and, if so, for what and when.

c.      Ask them if they are able to write letters of recommendation by the due date.

d.     Tell them what type of program(s) or position(s) for which you are applying.

e.     Tell them what kind of skills or experiences you will bring to that program or position that you think makes you a strong candidate.       


3.      Deliver a folder to each reference that includes the following materials.



A copy of at least one of your writing samples from a class you took with the professor.


Reprints of research presentation papers or posters.


A copy of your vita and unofficial transcript.


A draft of your statement of intent.


On a separate sheet of paper, tell your reference about relevant expertise you have of which they might not be aware. Also tell them why you are applying to each particular program. Most professors will find it helpful if you include your overall GPA, GPA in your major, final grade in their course(s) and test scores.List the semesters you took classes with the professor/worked with the professor, as well as your grades in those courses or resulting research presentations/products.


Hard copies of required recommendation materials.


If the graduate program or agency requires hard copies of recommendation materials…

a.     Organize the materials in a folder or envelope so all pieces stay together.

b.     If requesting recommendations for several places, separate materials by institution/agency and paper clip materials for each institution together.

c.      Complete all of questions on the forms you can including

                                                              i.      Your name

                                                            ii.      Name of program/position to/for which you are applying

                                                          iii.      Your decision to waive/not waive your rights to view the letter (if applicable)

                                                          iv.      Name of reference (e.g., Dr. Cheryl Fortner-Wood)

                                                            v.      Title of reference (e.g., Associate Professor of Psychology or Director of McNair scholars)

                                                          vi.      Reference's address (e.g., Winthrop University, Psychology or McNair Scholars Program, Rock Hill, SC 29733)

                                                        vii.      Reference's phone number (e.g., 803-323-2641 or 803-323-2125)

                                                      viii.      Reference's fax (e.g., 803-323-2371 or 803-323-3125)

                                                          ix.      Reference's e-mail (e.g., fortnerc@winthrop.edu)

                                                            x.      How long have you known you/the reference (in years).                                       

                 d.     Be sure to give a pre-addressed envelope for each program that requires a mailed form:

                                                              i.      Provide the reference's return address on each envelope. 

                                                            ii.      Be sure to put the correct name and full address for the institution to which the letter is to be sent (use the format specified on the application materials).

                                                          iii.      Place appropriate postage on each envelope (if necessary).

                                                          iv.      Using a post-it (or paper with a paper clip), indicate on each envelope the date the letter must be postmarked, faxed, e-mailed, or picked up by you as well as if the letter is to be mailed by me or by you.

                                                            v.      Write “re: your name” in the bottom left corner of each envelope just in case your materials are mixed up with those of other students at the institution where you are applying.


4. Gently remind your references a week before the materials are due. Sending an email that says something like: "Dr. Fortner-Wood, I am writing to thank you again for agreeing to write letters of recommendation for me. I know your schedule is busy and I am grateful for you for taking the time to work on those this week" will show appreciation and remind.

 5. As soon as you learn you've been accepted, let your reference know so they can celebrate with you. Be sure to contact them again when you've made your decision about where you will go or what position you will accept.

Here are links with advice about asking for reference letters.

bullet http://www.psywww.com/careers/lettrec.htm
bullet http://psych.hanover.edu/handbook/applic2.html

This page was last updated by Dr. Fortner-Wood on 02/11/2013.

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