Letters of Recommendation Guidelines

updated December 2016

Greetings Georgetown Students and Alumni,

Center for Social Justice team members are proud to support you in your applications for graduate school, jobs, fellowships, internships, service programs and more. We take our responsibility very seriously to serve you in this way so that you can continue your social justice commitments beyond CSJ, Georgetown, and Washington, DC. However, we receive hundreds of requests a year for letters, telephone reference checks, or recommendation forms. Thus, to make this process more effective, meaningful, and helpful to all involved, we have compiled the following guidelines. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation!

  • Requests for letters of recommendation must be received between two and three weeks prior to the letter’s due date. Multiple requests, such as letters for several graduate schools, and letters for prestigious fellowship (such as Fulbright, Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, etc.) require additional time. It is highly recommended that you make requests in person. If you do not live in Washington, DC, an email or phone call is appropriate.
  • Supporting materials for the letter of recommendation must be submitted via email to the recommender directly at least two weeks prior to the letter’s due date. Supporting materials may include:
  1. Updated resume or CV;
  2. PDF/screen shot of your most recent unofficial transcript;
  3. Essays, personal statements, or cover letter submitted for application in either close to final draft or final submission form;
  4. Basic information about the program or school to which you are applying (website address) or the description of the job/internship;
  • At least two weeks prior to the letter’s due date, email the recommender very brief answers (bullet points are fine) to the following questions:
  1. What are you applying to? (ex. graduate program, internship, job, fellowship, etc.) What is the name of the program? When does it take place? (ex. summer internship, fall study abroad, etc.).
  2. Why are you applying?
  3. What makes you uniquely qualified for this position/program?
  4. Who else is submitting a letter of recommendation or acting as a reference for you?
  5. Based on your relationship with the recommender, what about you do you think should be stressed or focused on in the letter of recommendation? Feel free to suggest a particular responsibility you had or assignment you submitted that might be used as a compelling example.
  6. If it is not obvious in your resume, list the CSJ programs in which you have participated and in what capacity, including community-based learning (CBL) courses.
  7. Is there another CSJ team member who could offer an anecdote or quotation about you for this letter?
  8. Is there somewhere the recommender can appropriately “help” or offer further explanation in your application? (ex. a dip in grades, leave of absence, etc.)
  9. How is this letter/form submitted (via email, mail, weblink, etc.)? When is the absolute last date that it must be submitted?
  • If you are requesting that the recommender offer feedback on your application materials, such as essays or resume, please allow for 1-2 additional weeks of time prior to the application’s due date.
  • Update us! It is a professional courtesy to update the recommender once you hear from the job/internship/fellowship/program, etc. (Yes, even if it’s not positive news.)
  • It is also kind and customary to write a short thank you note to the recommender. Gifts are not necessary, but a handwritten note is much appreciated.
  • In the case of reference checks or phone calls, it is suggested that you ask the CSJ team member if you can list them as a reference and then supply them with the company/organization name, job description and your updated resume/CV.

CSJ team members often receive requests from several students for popular on-campus opportunities, such as the Lena Landegger Community Service award. In a spirit of justice and transparency, CSJ will share popular opportunities such as these far in advance of their due date so that students can prepare accordingly in the case that a CSJ team member can not fulfill a student’s request for a letter.

CSJ team members cannot meet every request for a letter, particularly if sufficient time is not given prior to the letter’s due date; if they are already writing letters for other students for the same opportunity; or if they feel that you would be served better with another letter writer. As an example on the latter point, in the case of a prestigious fellowship or gradaute school application, a professor of a particular rank can be better suited as a recommender than a CSJ team member.

We recommend that students diversify from whom they are requesting letters of recommendation for a particular program/position and only request a letter from one CSJ team member for a particular program/position. An exception to this would be if you are requesting a letter from a CSJ team member and then also from Dr. Wisler or Amanda Munroe as an instructor.

We advise students to utilize all the same best practices for completing successful writing assignments for academic courses to writing application essays or cover letters:

  • plan ahead with sufficient time for multiple rounds of revisions;
  • research the opportunity/program fully in order to craft your essays specifically to its description;
  • write drafts and ask for feedback from friends, family or professors;
  • consult the Cawley Career Education Center and Writing Center as needed; and
  • read your writing out loud.

We are always looking for more ways to improve this process, so please do not hesitate to offer your suggestions to me, Dr. Andria Wisler (akw28), CSJ’s Executive Director.

Peace,

Andria