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Grad School: Letters of Recommendation

You generally need at least 2 academic recommendation letters for your graduate school application. That means letters, not just from professors, but professors who are familiar with your academic work. ‘A’ students can generally find a letter writer among the professors with whom they’ve taken classes. But if the professor only knows you in passing, the letter will be generic, adding little value to your application.

If you do a thesis, your research supervisor is an ideal letter writer. Supervisors are familiar with your research skills, writing ability, motivations, personality, and above all, can provide concrete examples to support their recommendations.

But what of the other letter(s)? I suggest introducing yourself to your professors now, no matter what year you are in at university. Go to their office hours and say “hi”; ask if they have research opportunities in one of their ongoing projects; become a teaching assistant if the opportunity arises. Regardless of whether you end up volunteering for a professor, ultimately the point is that your professors meet you and pay attention to your performance if you’re in their class.