Now that you know what admissions officers are looking for in an excellent reference letter, let’s take a look at the Recommendation Letter Preparation Process as a whole and the proper timing of each step in the process. After helping you understand the process in its entirety, we will delve into reference selection and how to collaborate with your references to increase the probability of outstanding reference letters.
While some of the reference letter process is outside of your control, by making good choices about who will write your letters and then coaching and supporting them along the way, you can significantly increase the likelihood that great letters will result. The figure below summarizes the steps in the process and the timing of each step.
Figure 21: Reference Letter Process
The most important step in the process is your first one. About six to eight weeks before the application deadlines, you will choose your references and secure their agreement to write your letters.
Once you have locked in your references for each school, you need to build a one-page Reference Guide for each recommender, and officially kick off the reference letter process with a face-to-face meeting about six weeks before the application deadlines. We will tell you more about what to include in your Reference Guide in the subsequent section on supporting your references.
With about three to four weeks until the application deadline, you will want to check in with your letter writer to see how they are progressing and offer assistance if they need any further direction or information.
The last step is to verify submission of all your letters a couple of weeks before the application deadline.
Unit Review: The Reference Letter Process
- The most important step in the Reference Letter Process is choosing the right references.
- Kick off the process with a face-to-face meeting.
- Give your references a Reference Guide that summarizes the key points about your candidacy that you would like them to support in their letter.
- About 3-4 weeks from the deadline check in on the progress of your letters.
- Verify submission a couple of weeks before the application deadline.