Recommendations play a big role in the graduate school application process. Don't underestimate their importance or choose the wrong recommender - find out how to make the most of them in this article!
Get the tips you need to succeed

We know you’re busy, so we're here to take the guesswork out of financial aid, college applications, and how to survive college life. And best of all, it’s free!

Get exclusive test prep info now!

Since score matters, sign up and get our proven test prep tips & 40% off our test prep books. And best of all, it's free!

Petersons Free PSAT Sample Test
Free Sample PSAT® Test Questions & Answers

The PSAT® test is right around the corner. Our FREE sample questions give you a peek into the type of questions you can expect to see on the test.

Get Started

For your graduate school application package, the program will typically ask for one or more recommendations. The program may simply ask for a traditional letter of recommendation or provide specific prompts for the recommender. Either way, the recommendation needs to help the admissions officers get to know you better as a person and your ability to perform well in graduate school. It can be difficult to decide whom to ask, so here are some tips for choosing a recommender:

1. Pick someone who knows you well.

Avoid the mistake of just going for professors whose class you earned an ‘A’ in but you never spoke with or someone so high up in your organization you’ve only met them casually. Struggling in a class might have prompted you to seek the professor during office hours, which began a relationship. Although you might have made better grades in other classes, a professor who witnessed you overcome obstacles can generally write a more persuasive letter of recommendation than one who only knows you from your grades.

A recommendation from someone in a top position within your work or volunteer organization but who only knows you from occasional group meetings probably isn’t your best bet. Remember, the recommender is trying to help make a good impression of you and your potential to the admissions officers. You aren’t trying to make the admissions officers impressed with the accomplishments of your recommender.

2. When choosing among professors, pick a recommender who either teaches in the field or in a field related to your graduate school program.

This can be especially difficult for individuals who are applying to graduate school programs that are very different than their undergraduate major. If your bachelor’s degree is in International Studies but you are applying to a graduate program in Nursing, a recommendation from your Biology professor can be much more significant than one from your Global Politics professor – even if you made a lower grade in Biology than Global Politics.

3. For recommenders outside of school, choose one who supervised your work or volunteer services.

When working together on a project, we get to know our teammates very well. Therefore, they can seem like ideal recommenders. They understand our work habits, our problem solving skills, and our goals. However, except in rare circumstances where the program specifically asks for a recommender who wasn’t a supervisor, the admissions officers are expecting a letter of recommendation from someone who was responsible for overseeing your work. A supervisor can attest to your ability to meet deadlines, accept feedback, and how well you build relationships with both your peers and authority figures.
Peterson's is YOUR guide to college information
Get exclusive information on schools, scholarships, and test prep

Log in to Peterson's

Forgot your password?

To reset your password, simply enter your email address in the field below and click the Reset Password button. You will receive an email with a link and instructions to reset your password.

Check your email

Please check your email and click on the link provided in the message to reset your password.

{{SchoolName}}

I certify that I am the subscriber to the provided cellular or other wireless number and I authorize {{SchoolName}} and its representatives and agents to contact me regarding educational opportunities at any current and future numbers that I provide for my cellular telephone or other wireless device using automatic dialing systems, artificial or prerecorded messages, and/or SMS text messages, even if I will be charged by my service provider(s) for receiving such communications. Consent is not a condition for receiving more information from {{SchoolName}}, and I understand that if I no longer wish to receive communications, I will need to contact {{SchoolName}} to alter this consent.

Disagree Agree
Petersons Monthly Scholarship

Peterson's May 2018 $1,000 Scholarship Sweepstakes

Spring into May with some extra cash.Enter our May scholarship sweepstakes and win $1,000 to help cover education expenses.

Enter