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Letters of recommendation

Requirements to apply: Three letters of recommendation

The Cornell Graduate School application utilizes an electronic recommendation letter submission system in which applicants provide the names and contact information for their recommenders as part of the online application. Recommenders then receive an email instructing them how to submit their letter. Learn more about Cornell’s letter of recommendation requirements here.

Our advice on recommendation letters

Do not underestimate the importance of reference letters in determining whether or not to accept an applicant into our graduate program. We highly recommend choosing letter writers who know you well and are able to describe your strengths. Encourage letter writers to be specific and share examples of what makes you an excellent candidate. If a letter is too short or generic, it will be difficult to tell if you are a strong candidate. 

What is a recommendation letter?

A recommendation letter is a letter written by someone who has taught or supervised the applicant in an educational setting that provides detailed information about the characteristics, accomplishments, experience, and preparedness of the applicant for entering our graduate program. This is done by describing what the applicant has done in their educational career thus far, as well as describing the potential of the applicant to succeed. 

What should be included in a recommendation letter?

The letter should begin by describing the relationship between the letter writer and the applicant. For example, is this person a former professor who taught the applicant or someone who has supervised the applicant in a research setting? It can be helpful to explain why the letter writer feels qualified to write a letter for the applicant.

The middle paragraph(s) should describe examples of the applicant’s experience, characteristics, and accomplishments that will make them successful in our graduate program. The letter should explain why the applicant is qualified for admission to our graduate program and what makes them likely to be successful.

The letter should close with an offer for the writer to answer further questions or provide more information if needed and an affirmation of the writer’s recommendation of the applicant. 

Letter writing resources: