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The best strategy to get your recommendation is to first build good relationships with the people you work with, be it your supervisor or internship guide. From my experience, it is better to work with a young professor in a small group. I realized this through my association with an Assistant Professor at IIT Madras, under whom I interned twice. He was a great mentor with whom I built a strong relationship, and we ended up publishing a paper together. He also went so far as to assist me during my graduate applications.

The same holds true for my third-year summer internship in Germany. During this internship, I built a good relationship with my supervisor, who happened to be a post-doctorate in the group. He later went on to help me obtain recommendations from my professor and was very helpful in reviewing my SOPs. In short, it is all about developing a natural rapport with your professors and guides that will aid you in getting the required LORs.

—Saman Salike, University of California, Berkeley

I felt it was important for my recommendation letters to reflect on me holistically: including my achievements and career goals. If you feel the same, you need to communicate this transparently to your recommenders. I set up meetings with my recommenders and spoke about my future aspirations, what the program was about, and how it would lead me to achieve the destination. After the meetings, I sent them a written document where the aforementioned was elucidated along with a copy of my resume. I also provided details on what skills were necessary for the program and how I have displayed them in various scenarios. By doing all this, I made sure to equip them with the right information to write a good letter.

Honestly, writing a letter of recommendation is a time-consuming task and requires huge dedication on the part of the recommender. Hence, do not request for it at the last minute. Follow a step-by-step strategy that gives them the right information and sufficient time.

—Uchechukwu Ekeopara, Dartmouth College

Final Thoughts on Getting Letters of Recommendation

You might have begun reading this chapter thinking, what’s there to learn about getting a letter of recommendation? We hope you feel differently now. A letter of recommendation, when obtained from the right person, can go a long way in getting you admitted. It shows the admissions committee who you are from a third person’s standpoint, as opposed to your own.

So begin to note down the list of recommenders based on the Venn diagram we proposed: how long they’ve known you, how well they know you, and how established they are in their role. The first two factors should take precedence over the third.

As much as you can, approach your recommender in person when you ask for the letter since it is a huge time commitment for them, and not something they enjoy writing. You can make that process easier by being prepared and sending a document with information about your achievements and experiences. A nicely worded email will go a long way. Also, don’t be shy to follow up with them. Give a buffer of ten days after your first email to follow up if you haven’t heard back.

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