Requesting Letters of Recommendation

Where to start

If you’re not sure what it means to request a letter of recommendation from a professor, what purpose a letter of recommendation serves in your application, or how to select which professors to request letters from, you can consult this video, posted from then UC Berkeley Graduate Diversity Director, Colette Patt. While it does date from 2011, all of the information from the video is still relevant.

Making a Request

Before requesting a letter of recommendation please make sure you have allowed between 3 and 5 weeks before the deadline for the letter. Crafting high-quality letters of recommendation personalized to each student and their desired academic program or job placement takes a significant amount of time.

No requests for a letter of recommendation will be granted when the letter must be submitted less than 3 weeks from the deadline.

Most academic references for graduate programs require professors to place a student on a scale of Top 5%, Top 10%, Top 25%, and Top 30% of all students that professor has recently taught. Because of the typical distribution of grades in my courses, students should seek another professor for a letter of academic reference if they received a grade lower than A- in any one of my classes.

If you meet both of these criteria, please send me a brief email at to request a letter.

Please note that I will not write non-confidential letters of reference or recommendation.

Preparing Documents

If your request is approved you should prepare the following documents:

  • a completed, signed and scanned copy of the Queen’s University’s Consent to Disclosure of Personal Information – Academic Reference Request form (click to download the PDF).

  • a 1-2 page statement of purpose detailing: the program/job you are interested in; the specific strengths that you possess that relate to the program/job; and specific assignments or moments in class during which you demonstrated that you possess strengths that are transferable to the program/job for which you are applying.

This statement should be in French if : you are currently a major or medial in the French department or have graduated in April of this calendar year.

This statement can be in English if: you are not a major or medial in the French department, or if you graduated prior to this calendar year.

  • A 5-10 page writing sample representing your strongest writing skills for applicants of humanities/social science graduate programs.  If you are applying to a program to be conducted in another language, please submit a writing sample in that language for evaluation (English, French, Spanish, or Kreyòl). Please do not submit writing samples longer than 10 pages.

All three of these documents are required and should be submitted no later than 15 days before the letter is due.

Reminder emails

Contrary to what students may expect, professors appreciate emails that remind them of the deadlines to academic reference letters. 

Once you have sent your documents, please send reminder emails:

  • 7 days before the deadline
  • 3 days before the deadline

When the letter has been sent to the desired program or potential employer, you will receive a confirmation email.

Brief Thank You

Though not entirely expected, students should get in the habit of writing a brief, but heartfelt, note of thanks to those who have written them letters of support.  It is a small gesture that acknowledges the work that went into writing the letter you requested.

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