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Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are important and they should be written by people who know you and your research well. 

Who should write my letter of recommendation?

Choose someone who know can speak knowledgeably and enthusiastically about you and your research.  It’s more important that your references know you than it is for them to be a “name” in the field. 

Can I use references from my undergraduate institution?

If you’re a new graduate student, your faculty supervisor for undergraduate experiences in the laboratory or summer projects are good bets for the letter of recommendation – just be sure they know you and your research.

What can I do as a first-year student to help faculty get to know me better?

Cornell faculty are friendly and open to becoming acquainted with graduate students.  Take advantage of office hours, seminars, lunches with department faculty and other opportunities to start a one-on-one conversation.

Before talking with faculty, find out more about their research and be ready to talk about how their research interests relate to yours.  Cornell faculty have committed themselves to developing the next generation of scholars.  They want you to be successful and most will be happy to help.

How can I help my recommenders write a strong letter?

Once you’ve selected your recommenders, make it easy for them to present you in the best possible light:

  • Ask them what they will need from you.  If they can’t indicate in their letter that they support your research, look for another recommender.
  • Supply them with a copy of your transcript.
  • Give them a copy of your proposal.
  • Know the deadline for their letters (it may be different from the application due date) and remind them as it draws near; don’t wait until the day before the deadline to ask if they’ve submitted the letter.
  • Give them an idea of what you’d like them to emphasize in their letters; it’s okay for you to suggest a focus.