Letters of recommendation (also referred to as reference letters) are often required when applying for employment and/or admission to studies beyond the Bachelor's degree, and provide details about your potential for success.
Think carefully regarding who you will approach for recommendation letters (e.g., past or future contacts that you will make) and the types of letters needed for your particular goals (e.g., academic references, references for volunteer or paid positions related to a particular field, character references, etc.).
Ask faculty members to write recommendation letters
Contact Psychology faculty members (also referred to as advocates or referees in this context) who are the most familiar with your skills and abilities, particularly those relating to your future goals, and ask if they would be willing to write you a recommendation letter.
It is difficult for someone to be an advocate regarding your skills, abilities, and potential for future success if he/she does not know you well.
Instructors for large courses where the grading was based only on multiple choice tests/exams would not be your best choice for a referee even if you did very well in the course. Those instructors will probably only be able to speak about your final grade in relation to others in the class.
Suggest that you approach faculty members for courses where you earned grades over 79% and had one or more of the following experiences:
- written work e.g., essay questions on tests/exams, a major term paper, research proposal, etc.
- oral presentations
- in-class or on-line class discussions (be an active participant)
- data collection and analysis (see research experience)
The more contact a faculty member has with you the more he/she can say about you in a reference letter.
Don't leave networking with faculty members until your final year.
Ways to network with faculty members include:
- be an active participant in the class discussions, for example, in the advanced research methods courses (PSYCH 392-399) and honours seminars (PSYCH 420, 451-463). These courses are for those in Honours Psychology only.
- enrol in a course where you will receive one-on-one supervision from a faculty member e.g,. a directed studies course (PSYCH 480-486) or the Honours Thesis (PSYCH 499A/B/C). These courses are for Honours Psychology only.
- get involved in the faculty member's research lab (see how to obtain research experience).
- seek advice from faculty members regarding your educational and career goals e.g.,
- read articles that faculty members have written and discuss the material with him/her.
- attend departmental colloquia where students can engage in discussions with faculty members about the material presented.
Information faculty members need to write recommendation letters
Give faculty members sufficient notice that recommendation letters are needed and include the following with your request:
- addressed and stamped envelopes or the full addresses for all recipients of the reference letter.
- deadline for the recipient to receive the recommendation letter.
- statement regarding your educational and career goals.
- photocopy of your current unofficial transcript (create a pdf from your Quest account).
- list courses that you successfully completed that are particularly relevant to your plans/goals.
- for recommendations for future study, the minimum criteria for admission to the particular program. Please provide the link to that website.
- list your extracurricular activities that are relevant to your plans/goals, for example, paid or volunteer positions where you have:
- developed research, leadership, problem solving, or interpersonal skills,
- demonstrated empathy for people and/or social responsibility,
- list of awards/scholarships received,
- any other background that you think is relevant for the letter needed.
Last updated: August 21, 2015