University of Southern Indiana

Tips for Getting Great Letters

When you're seeking a letter of recommendation, you need to think about WHO to ask and HOW to ask

WHO to Ask

Throughout your time at USI, you should make sure to get to know your professors. This means participating actively in class, talking to them outside the classroom, and visiting them during office hours. 

Ideally, you should also look for opportunities to do research with at least one professor and make sure they know your work well. This might mean working on an independent study project or helping with your professor's research in the lab or the field. 

Take time to talk about your career plans and goals with your professors. Actively seek mentoring relationships and advice from the faculty you connect with best. 

Those faculty? The ones who know your research and work ethic, the ones who understand your goals and values? They are the best ones to write you letters of recommendation. 

You might also consider letters from other folks you've worked with closely, like the Director of the Honors Program or someone from the Multicultural Center. But at least one of your letters should definitely be from a faculty member who can speak about your academic potential. 

HOW to Ask

Early. As soon as you've decided to apply for one of these awards, you should ask your recommenders if they can write you a letter. Ask something like: "Are you comfortable writing me a strong letter of recommendation for X?" 

It's nicest to ask in person, but email is fine. If you're emailing, make sure you write a professional email that includes your full name and the context in which the person knows you. 

Let them know: 

  • When the application is due. Check if it is due to USI earlier than the actual application deadline. 
  • When you will be able to get them a copy of your application essay(s). Plan to give them a month with your materials before their letter is due. You should also provide a copy of your resume or any other documents that give information they might need to write a strong letter. 
  • If there are any specific requirements for the letter based on what award you're applying for. 
  • Give them all information about submitting the letter. Does it go in a packet? Is it submitted independently? Is it submitted online? Does it go to the USI Contact first?
  • Direct them to these webpages for tips! 

Contact Sarah Stevens


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