How to Get a Great Letter of Recommendation for Grad School

Even if you have a bad GRE or GMAT score, a few strong recommendations can tip the scales back in your favor!

Even if you have a bad GRE or GMAT score, a few strong recommendations can tip the scales back in your favor as long as the rest of your grad school application is strong. Here are five ways to get excellent graduate school recommendations and get one step closer to your master’s degree!

Don’t feel badly about asking! If you succeed in graduate school, your old teachers, employers, and friends will be thrilled that they were able to help you along the way. Everyone needs recommendations, so don’t ever feel guilty about asking. Think about who really knows your character and who can best comment on your readiness to take on graduate school. Don’t feel like you need to get the most famous person you know to write you a letter of recommendation. A letter from Bill Gates is worthless if Bill Gates doesn’t really know you.

Help your recommenders. Don’t write their letter for them, but do give your recommenders your personal statement, recent résumés/transcripts, and describe for them your “story.” They should know how you want the admission committee to perceive you, and why you’ve chosen them specifically to write your letter.

Give clear deadlines! Give your recommenders a clear “due date” and check in with them a week beforehand. Be polite, but make sure they finish on time. There’s nothing wrong with calling to ask if there’s anything else they need, or to keep them updated on your application process.

Have extra transcripts, résumés, and essays. Your recommenders may lose or misplace the information you’ve given them, and may need replacements. You’ll be busy completing your applications and studying for the GRE while they are focused on the recommendation, so it’s better to be more prepared than you think you’ll need to be.

Include a pre-addressed envelope. Some recommenders prefer not to let you read their letter and would like to mail it themselves. Give them the option by including envelopes that are stamped and already correctly addressed. This is just one more way to make the process as simple as possible for your letter-writer. Remember, they are doing you a favor, so don’t forget to write them a thank-you letter once they’re done!

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

college recommendations grad school grad school recommendations letters of recommendation

About Vivian Kerr

Vivian Kerr

Vivian Kerr has been teaching and tutoring in the Los Angeles area since 2005. She graduated from the University of Southern California, studied abroad in London, and has worked for several test-prep companies including Kaplan for whom she taught ACT, SAT, ISEE, GRE, GMAT, and did admissions counseling. She is a contributing blogger at Beat the GMAT, and currently blogs, tutors, and writes content for the online test prep company Grockit, which focuses on making standardized test preparation affordable and accessible for students around the world. She loves to see her former students succeed in grad school!

You can find Vivian's profile on Grockit or subscribe to her CollegeXpress blog


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
CollegeXpress Logo


Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

College Matches