Application season means many of you are in the process of requesting letters of recommendation. Requesting letters can be a stressful task--who do you ask? how do you ask them? when? These are all important factors to consider. In this blog post, we'll cover the when, who, and how of requesting letters of recommendation and (hopefully) help alleviate some of the stress.

1. Who

Who you ask for a letter of recommendation is one of the most important factors for you to consider. This person should know you well and have positive things to say about you and your potential in the field. This could be a professor, a research mentor, or, in some cases, a work supervisor. Your letter writer should be able to provide specific examples of your interactions and how they tie into your potential as a graduate student and future clinician. 

In order to determine who to ask, try writing down the names of professors and supervisors who you've had positive interactions with. How long have you known them? Can you think of specific examples of how you've interacted with them? Examples of interactions may be completing an honors project under their mentorship, regularly attending office hours when taking their class, or working closely with the faculty mentor of your undergraduate student organization. What was the outcome of those interactions? For example, did you earn a grade in the course that is reflective of your level of engagement with the course material and the instructor? You'll want to consider all of these questions when creating your list of potential letter writers.

Once you've compiled a list of 3-4 people, you're ready to start draft emails to request a letter of recommendation.

2. When

Generally, LORs should be requested at least 6 weeks in advance of the submission deadline. This gives your letter writer time to consider your request and craft a strong letter. This also gives you enough to time find another letter writer if someone declines.

However, there are (very few) times when it's OK to break this rule. If you know your letter writer very well and you've developed a strong rapport, it's likely that they are expecting you to request a letter of recommendation--and maybe this has already been discussed in passing. In these cases, it's OK if you don't stick to a hard-and-fast rule of 6 weeks. Sometimes 5 or 4 weeks of lead time is enough. 

Another time it's OK to break this rule is if your letter writer has written for you in the past and you have a last minute change in your applications. For example, if you've just decided to apply to another program, and you're letting them know about this change as soon as you could. 

Please note, if you're sending a request with less than 6 weeks' notice, you should acknowledge that you're aware the request is short notice. You might consider adding a line such as, "I know this request is short notice as it's only four weeks before the deadline and understand if this is a factor in your decision. I appreciate your taking the time to consider this request." 

3. How

Once you're ready to request a letter of recommendation, you want to include a few items to aid your letter writer and increase the likelihood that they'll agree to write a letter for you. The email should come across as prepared and professional. 

First, remind them how they know you. If you took a course with them the year prior, state which course it is, what you enjoyed about the class, and the grade you earned. If you attended office hours or regularly engaged in class discussion, you can also include a statement of this to remind them of how you engaged with the course.

Be very clear that you are asking for a letter of recommendation for graduate school programs in Speech-Language Pathology. Professors get a lot of these requests, so being clear and providing all necessary details is very helpful. If you know which schools you're applying to, you may include a list of the schools and their deadlines, though at this point it is sufficient to simply state that you're applying to multiple programs and provide the soonest deadline. (Quick note: After they've agreed, it's helpful to send a complete list of schools and their deadlines, even if you're applying through CAPCSD). 

Include additional documents that will help with their letter writing. For example, I frequently request students send their CV/Resume, transcripts, and personal statement. This helps to strengthen the letter by giving me a more wholistic viewpoint. It is also a great way for me to see what the student has left out that I would want to highlight--as their mentor, if I know this student demonstrated excellent leadership skills, and they've left out examples of leadership in their personal statement, I make sure to include examples of their leadership in my letter. 

You may use AI to help craft your email, just be sure to review and revise that AI output before you send it off. 

On a Final Note: Here is a good example of an email I recently received from a student requesting a letter of recommendation. It hits all of the major points: I'm reminded of how I know this student, how they performed in the course, some of their background information, what their long-term goals are, their general application deadline, and their application dossier (This email has been shared with the student's permission): 

Dear Professor,
I hope you are doing well! I wanted to formally write you to ask for a letter of recommendation as I apply to graduate schools in speech-language pathology. I took your course ____ as part of the _____ program. I really loved your class and put a lot of effort and time into the material. I ended up with an A in your class.

I studied Sociology and Finance in my undergraduate career and have always enjoyed working with people, especially kids. My goal is to eventually become a trilingual speech pathologist who works with children and focuses on their phonological development and progress. I took a lot away from your class and think a letter of recommendation from you would enhance my application. 

To assist in your decision-making and writing process, I have attached my resume, unofficial transcript, and a rough draft of my personal statement. 

I understand that you may have a busy schedule, and I sincerely appreciate your time and effort in helping me with this recommendation. If you are unable to accommodate this request, please feel free to let me know and I completely understand. 

If there is any additional information I can provide, please let me know. The earliest deadline for the programs I'm applying to is January. 

Once again, thank you for considering my request. 

Warm regards,


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