Reference Letter Preparation: Online Guide and Tips

Liwei Liao 加中安徽青年发展基金会 2022-01-24 04:45


Step 1 – What is a Reference Letter?

  • A reference letter is a description and endorsement of your skillsets relevant to the program you are applying for

Step 2 – Who to Ask?

  • Why would they be a good reference? A good reference has a personal connection with you and is familiar with your skills and personality

  • Be proactive to prepare a list of all the people whom can adequately vouch for your academic performance and relevant experiences



Other professional connections


Step 3 – When to Ask?

  • Know when your application deadlines are and give your references 6-10 weeks to prepare your reference letter

Step 4 – How to Ask?

  • Have your other application documents ready to provide to your reference (CV and personal statement/letter of intent)

  • Contact your reference via a professional email, or an in-person interaction

  • Ensure you carefully choose the language in your email, make sure you ask for a

“positive” or “strong” reference

Step 5 – How to respond accordingly?

If they say yes...

Say thank you and provide them with all programs you are applying for and when the dates are (don’t ask for too many letters, 5-6 schools are reasonable per reference)

Be prepared for the fact that they may ask you to write a draft

If they say no...

Respond by thanking them for their time and move on to the next referee on your list.


For more information:

  • Email template for asking grad school reference (below)

Sample Reference Letter Email Request

Dear Professor _____,

I hope this email finds you well. Are you enjoying your semester so far?

I have greatly enjoyed and benefited from the ________ classes that I took with you over the past three years. I have decided to further my education by pursuing graduate studies in _______ next year. I am in the process of organizing my application documents and was wondering if you would be willing to provide a positive reference letter for me.

[Optional: My GPA is ___, I received ___grade in your class, my major paper/project was____.]

I would be happy to provide further documentation including deadlines, and supplemental materials if you are comfortable being a reference for me. The schools I am applying to have deadlines ranging from____ to _____.


Student Name

Student Number


Other Tips for Asking for A Reference from your Professors:

When contacting professors, in addition to thanking the professors for their efforts and briefly describing the course grades and performance, you can also show what you have learned, inspired, and practiced in the course. At the same time, we should also look forward to what role this course can play in future graduate study and career development. In addition, you can mention your interactions with the professor to help the professor recall and shape your image.

Sometimes professors will communicate with classmates through Zoom meetings and office hours. Therefore, preparing the above content in advance can appropriately magnify your advantages. Before the end, you can also ask the professor about his postgraduate study and application experience sharing, so as to leave a good impression.

The reference letter is the university through a third party to understand the applicant, to provide evidence for the applicant's essay content. A high-quality reference letter can contain more value than other application information. Therefore, in addition to guaranteeing 1-2 references from professors of major courses in the upper grades, applicants can also contact their internship employers, or the professors of lower grades/elective courses who are impressed with you and have high scores, to help them write a vivid and comprehensive reference letter that can demonstrate your competencies.

Recommended Timeline for Requesting Reference Letters from your Professors:

Around September, provide the recommender with resumes, essays and the latest transcript, and give him a quick reminder in advance to remind him of the time to fill in the reference letter.

When submitting an application around October, attach the approved referee information to the application. It usually includes the recommender's name, job title, relationship with the applicant, the referee's school/work email, address, and phone number.

After submitting the application and paying the fee, the recommender will receive an Online Reference Letter Link automatically issued by the school to fill in the recommended content. If the recommender needs to provide a template, it can be written in the following format:

Opening thank you invitation--Describe your impression of the applicant--Relate academic achievements and practical experience to show background strength--Show the applicant's strengths and characteristics--Provide recommender information for follow-up--End sign.