For the next installment of my “How to Apply to SLP Graduate School” series, I’ve decided to talk about letters of recommendation (LOR). Obtaining the required number of LORs is a pretty stressful process. Each school requires a different number of letters and sometimes the person writing them must have a specific relationship to you (professor, supervisor, licensed SLP with CCC’s) which can make things a bit complicated. This post is filled with tips for you to ensure you have a smooth experience asking for LORs!
My biggest piece of advice is to START EARLY. Be proactive! At Temple there are GPA and grade requirements you must meet in order to ask for LORs. We had to have a minimum GPA of 3.00, a B or better in the course(s) taught by the faculty members who are being asked to write the letters, and have no more than one grade of C in any course in the undergraduate major. Think about the professors you want to ask for letters as early as the start of your sophomore year. In your second year, you’ll begin taking more classes related to your major. Be sure to make a good impression on your professors when you can.
Some good tips I have for this are: get good grades (obviously), sit in the front of class, go to office hours (even if it’s just once or twice to ask a question… this is HUGE), ask a lot of questions and speak up in class, turn your assignments in on time.
Always ask and do it face-to-face.
Even if you think they’re going to say yes, it’s always always good to ask them as if you weren’t sure. NEVER assume a professor is writing you a letter. Another important factor is to do it face-to-face. Email the professor to set up a meeting or to be sure they’re around during their office hours and then stop in. Chances are, they know it’s application season and they know why you’re coming in. Don’t sweat it. When you get there, talk to them about how they were an integral part of your undergraduate process and you loved their class, working in their lab, etc. and you were wondering if they could write you a letter of recommendation for graduate school.
BEWARE: sometimes professors will say yes but will actually write a negative letter and send it. Yes, this has happened to people. Be sure to say, “will you be able to write me a positive letter of recommendation”. This kind of forces the professor to be up front about it!
At Temple, we had these “packets” that needed to be given to the professor before they could write the LOR. I’ll be honest, I asked four professors/supervisors for LORs and I only made ONE physical packet. Most of my professors wanted you to email them the requirements. Every school is different, I’m sure, but here’s what Temple’s department required:
- Student resume
- Personal statement
- Complete transcript with all course grades and overall GPA
- Stamped and addressed envelopes (with return address of faculty member) for printed recommendations
- List of all schools to get recommendations from the faculty member(s) and their due dates
Everything is interconnected.
I know this sounds very deep and philosophical but it’s SO true when it comes to the grad school application process. The people writing your LORs are going to basically need a finished application from you. They wanted my personal statement and my resume. They want a list of schools you’ll be applying to. Some of this information was not finalized until November. DO NOT WAIT THAT LONG TO ASK FOR LETTERS. Get on that professor’s list ASAP. Even if you don’t have your personal statement or resume finished, still ask. Get to them as soon as it’s done. Most of my professors didn’t care if the personal statement was final, they just wanted a draft to see the gist of what I was writing about. But it is important to remember that when you’re applying everything is interdependent on each other. It’s all one big application after all!
Q: How do you ask for a LOR when you aren’t really close to any of your professors? I’ve never had a professor more than once!
I only had one professor twice. And I also was a preceptor (TA) for her. She was definitely writing one of my letters. As for the others, I had only had them once and I was EXTREMELY nervous to ask. The one professor I asked I had only had her that same semester. I was doing really well in her class and I was super interested in the material so I went to her office hours and asked her. Bottom line: it never ever hurts to ask. For those professors that don’t know you well or haven’t had you in class for a few semesters, they’ll probably bring up your grades. Be prepared for that. Back up your reasoning for asking them. I’m asking you for a letter because ______. Why are they a good fit to write you a letter? What do they know about you that maybe one of your other professors doesn’t know? Think of those things before you ask so you’re prepared!
Q: How far in advance did you ask for recommendation letters?
I sent out emails requesting to meet with professors in September of my senior year. I had friends who asked before leaving for the summer their junior year and then followed up with the professor as soon as the semester started. This is a good method if you really know who you want to write you a letter!
Q: Do your letters of rec have to be from professors?
NO. However, pay attention to each school’s requirements. Some schools might want each letter to be from someone who has had you in class so be prepared for that! My letters were from professors and an old supervisor/boss I had while working for Jumpstart.
Q: How did you determine who to ask?
I looked at professors who knew me outside of class, could speak about my work ethic and passion for the profession and my organizational skills. My supervisor could talk about how I interacted with children and their families in a classroom setting. I think all of those things are important factors about me and things I would want a program to know.
Q: I plan on having four letters of rec, if a particular school only needs 3, how do I choose which ones I want them to read?
There’s really no right answer for this. You could look at it like if a program has a strong focus on children, you’d send letters from a professor who had you in a language development class or, in my case, a supervisor from a program like Jumpstart. Or you could just pick the letters from the three people you feel know you best. Ultimately, it’s your call!
Check out more posts in the SLP grad school series:
(all the components you’ll need to complete the process!)
If you ever have questions or want to see me write about a specific topic, leave a comment below!