Sample Reference Letter for Graduate School

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One of the many “unpaid” tasks that college professors are asked to do is to write letters of recommendation for students who wish to apply for graduate school. Most professors are more than happy to do this for students who have excelled within their classes. However, writing these letters takes time away from lecture planning, student advising, and essay grading; often instructors end up writing these letters of recommendation on their “own” time, when they could otherwise be relaxing at home after long days spent teaching.

How to Ask for a Reference 

If you are applying to graduate school and need a letter of recommendation, try to make this task as easy as possible for your professor by giving them information to work with: a copy of your resume, a list of your outstanding academic achievements and grade point average (GPA), a list of your extracurricular or volunteer activities (especially those where you filled a leadership role), and the date by which the letter must be submitted to the graduate program.

A well-written, enthusiastic letter of recommendation from a professor may do more than get you accepted into graduate school – it may also convince the department faculty to give you fellowship funding for tuition and expenses or paid employment as a research or teaching assistant.

Make sure that you give your professor ample “lead time” to write a detailed and powerful letter for you. If you ask an instructor, during the middle of a heavy grading period during finals week, to write a letter for you “by tomorrow,” it’s likely he or she will either refuse or will dash off a quick letter that doesn’t advocate strongly for your candidacy.

Here is an example of a letter of recommendation for graduate school. Also, see below for an example of a letter thanking the reference provider for recommending you. It’s important to thank your professors for their help – should you eventually earn a graduate degree in their field of expertise, these faculty may one day be your colleagues.

Sample Reference Letter for Graduate School

This is an example of a reference letter for graduate school. Download the graduate school reference letter template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see below for more examples.

Screenshot of a sample reference letter for graduate school
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Sample Reference Letter for Graduate School (Text Version)

Jane Doe
123 Main Street
Anytown, CA 12345
555-555-5555
jane.doe@email.com

September 1, 2018

Jeff Lee
Office of the Registrar
Acme School
123 Business Rd.
Business City, NY 54321

Dear Mr. Lee,

I highly recommend Emily Smith as a candidate for graduate school. I have worked with Emily in my capacity as Education Department Chair at Salitus College. 

While a student at Salitus, Emily maintained a 3.98 GPA while taking a full load of honors classes and seminars. She excelled as the top student within the senior-level Teaching Methods course I teach; her other instructors in our department speak highly of her performance in their classes, as well.

In additional to her classwork, Emily was also employed in various positions including teaching a museum program to fourth-grade classes in the Saratoga Springs School District, teaching both adults and children to ride horses, and managing horse show participation for a local riding stable.

She accomplished all these tasks with great initiative and with a very positive attitude. Emily has a wonderful rapport with people of all ages, especially the "at-risk" children she worked with at Carroll Hill School and Prospect Child and Family Center. Emily has a special talent working with the children who need more guidance and support than those typically found in a traditional classroom setting.

Her ability to connect with her students and her talent at teaching simple concepts, as well as more advanced topics, are both truly superior. She has excellent written and verbal communication skills, is extremely organized, reliable, and computer literate.

Emily would be a tremendous asset to your program and I recommend her to you without reservation. If you have any further questions with regard to her background or qualifications, please do not hesitate to contact me. 

Sincerely,


Jane Doe
Chair, Department of Education

Graduate School Reference Thank You Letter Example

Also review a thank you letter written to show appreciation for a reference for graduate school.

Alexandra Janning
123 Main Street

Anytown, CA 12345
555-555-5555
alexandra.janning@email.com

September 1, 2018

Jane Doe
Chair, Department of Education
Salitus College
123 Business Rd.
Business City, NY 54321

Dear Dr. Doe,

Thank you very much for the reference to Anycity Graduate School. I learned so much from you during my undergraduate career at Salitus, and I believe your faith in me gave me the confidence to achieve more than I thought possible.

I just learned that I have been accepted into the program! I really appreciate your support and the time you took to write personally to your colleagues at Anycity Graduate School on my behalf. 

Sincerely yours,
Alexandra Janning