The letter of recommendation (or reference as referred to within the Wisconsin Scholarship Hub or WiSH) is an important piece of the application review process. It gives reviewers insight into an applicant that goes beyond grades or rankings. It corroborates the content of the submitted application materials and provides important testimony regarding character, diligence, dedication, academic and leadership potential.
Steps to assist your recommender in writing a strong recommendation:
1. Choose someone familiar with you and your work. Letters from professors or instructors are preferred over teaching assistants or other academic staff. You are encouraged to get to know two professors during your undergraduate career. Stay after class to ask questions. Attend office hours to discuss course material, ask questions or request advice regarding classes or graduate and career options. Ask the professor to tell you “their story” or how they journeyed to their current position. You will gain insight and guidance on academic and career matters, as well as end up with excellent letters of recommendation for employment, scholarships, fellowships, internships or graduate and professional school applications.
2. Contact your recommender at least three weeks ahead of time. Ask the question, “Are you able to write a strong letter of reference for me for the … application?” Choose a recommender who can positively answer this question. Include in your request information stating when the letter is due and where it should be sent. Share the name of the scholarship and information about the application process to which you are applying. This allows your recommender to write a tailored letter and seek assistance in navigating within WiSH, if necessary.
3. The College of Letters and Science generates an automated request to your recommender after you input information (name and email) and provides a mechanism for the recommendation to be uploaded into your application.
4. You will see that the recommendation has been submitted by looking on your dashboard in the WiSH system on the “References” tab. When your letter of recommendation is complete, it will have a submitted status with the date it was submitted. If your letter of recommendation has not been submitted, the status will be noted as “Requested.” You may send your recommender a reminder within WiSH by clicking the red “Resend Request” box. You may also want to send a more personal message by email reminding your recommender of the application due date. If necessary, WiSH allows you to revise your requested recommender while the application is open. To do so, return to the application, recommender question and select “Add a New Reference.”
5. Provide your recommender a copy of your résumé and student record. You may also want to give the professor an example of your marked and graded work such as a research paper, writing sample, or piece from your portfolio. Share a summary of the accomplishments you would like highlighted in the letter. This may sound bold, but can be enormously helpful to a busy academic who writes hundreds of letters a year.
6. If time allows, visit your recommender during office hours and have a conversation about your qualifications for the opportunity.
7. Provide your recommender your up-to-date contact information.
8. Send a thank you note as a courtesy. This expresses your appreciation to your recommender and sets the stage for a future recommendation request.
9. Let your recommender know the outcome of the process for which the recommendation was written.