Asking for letters of reference

As a doctoral student I am often seeking additional sources of grant funding to support my studies.  Below I have compiled a quick list of best practices that can be used when asking for letters of reference or support for grants, scholarships, or graduate school applications.

  1. Start early-consider the individuals who are familiar with your work and who can clearly articulate (in writing) your strengths, areas in need of improvement, and who can speak to your potential as an applicant.
  2. Avoid asking people to write a letter for you at the last minute. Everyone is busy so it is not fair to expect people to turn out a letter for you at the last minute.
  3. Prepare a draft or letter template that your reviewers can use as a starting point.  This saves them time and increases the likelihood that they will submit a letter for you again in the future.
  4. Give the reviewer a brief description of the grant, scholarship, and so on for which you are applying so that they can tailor the letter to the mission and goals of the funder.
  5. The letter of reference (especially for grant applications) should address your potential as a independent researcher, your potential to contribute new knowledge to your specified discipline through your proposed research, and your commitment to your academics (if still in school) or completing your proposed research objectives.



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