1. Know what graduate schools are looking for in their applicants.This will help you select letter writers who can speak to those criteria. In general, graduate schools seek applicants who demonstrate the following, so you’ll want to find someone who can speak to these qualities or the qualities that your program is looking for.
- Intellectual development through college
- Aptitude for independent thinking and research
- Analytical abilities and writing skills
- Leadership or creative qualities
2. Think about people who could tell a good story about you. A letter that only includes general comments, such as, “She was a good student who participated in class and turned in her assignments on time,” indicates that the person only knows you superficially and is unable to talk about you with any depth or knowledge. A strong letter writer is someone who knows you well, knows your educational and career goals, has a high opinion of you and who can:
- evaluate your performance in your field of interest
- discuss your personal characteristics
- discuss your capacity to work with others
- discuss your leadership skills
- evaluate your level of professionalism
- discuss your academic skills -- not simply experience, but evaluate your potential to succeed in graduate-level study.
3. Choose a variety of letter writers. You could select one person under whom you have done a research project or an independent study, another who is familiar with your experiences on a study abroad program or an internship, and select another you have had for several classes.