Careers and Graduate Preparation

Letters of Recommendation

At some point you will likely be in the position of asking your professor(s) for letters of recommendation for a job or graduate school. Below are some guidelines for approaching this task in a professional manner, so that you will get the best possible recommendations.

Ask the right people

Make sure you ask people who know you well. If a professor has only had you in one class, then it is very difficult for him/her to write anything substantial about you. The people you ask should have had significant positive experiences with you. You must have demonstrated that you have a mature, responsible, and enthusiastic attitude toward learning. At the very least, this means that you always attend class and participate enthusiastically. Ideally, you also have gotten involved in teaching or research apprenticeships, fieldwork, or independent study.

Provide information about the program or job for which you are applying

Provide a brief description of the types of graduate programs or jobs you are applying for. Indicate the exact name of the program (e.g. Experimental, Social Psychology, School Counseling, etc.) for each place you are applying and the address to which the letter will be sent. Please track down the address if it isn't on any of your forms so that the professors don't need to.

Provide information about yourself

Provide as much detailed information about yourself as possible. The more information you supply, the better your recommendation will be. Such information might include:

  • Which courses you took with the professor (including year/semester you took them and grades earned)
  • GPA
  • GRE scores (or other appropriate test scores)
  • CAPP report
  • A list of activities you have participated in, honor societies, leadership roles, and any other types of accomplishments
  • Your resume or curriculum vitae
  • An explanation of why you chose this program/career/etc. A copy of the "personal statement" that you typically have to write for graduate school would be appropriate (even if it isn't the final polished version.)
  • Indicate any particular "qualities" you have that you would like to emphasize, or that the place you are applying to seems to particularly look for.

Fill out the forms

Provide any forms that the professor needs to fill out. You should fill in as much information as possible on these forms before giving them to the professor. This includes information about the professor (name, address, position, etc.) Any information you need to fill out should be typed (not hand-written, which looks messy and undermines your chances of acceptance).

Waive your access

Check with the professor first, but typically you should agree to "waive your right to access" the recommendation on the recommendation form, which means that your recommendation will remain confidential and you will not be able to look at it. This is because non-confidential letters are often seen as weaker than confidential ones by the admissions boards.

Provide the necessary supplies

Provide all the necessary envelopes, stamped and addressed to the appropriate places. If the recommendation is to be returned to you in an envelope, be sure to indicate on the envelope the name of the school/job/etc. that the recommendation is for, so that you know what to do with it when you get it back.

Indicate the due date

For each school/job, indicate when it needs to be done (e.g. stick a post-it on the form). Please give professors at least 2 weeks notice if possible.

Follow-up

Finally, come back and let your professors know how it all turned out! Where did you get accepted? Where are you going?

Questions, Comments, Suggestions?

If you would like more information about the psychology program at SUNY Plattsburgh, please contact

Department co-chairs
Dr. Katherine Dunham (katherine.dunham@plattsburgh.edu)
Dr. Michael Morales (michael.morales@plattsburgh.edu)

Department secretaries
Ms. Pam LeClair (leclaipl@plattsburgh.edu)
Ms. Donna Vanderhoff (vanderdm@plattsburgh.edu)

Phone: (518) 564-3076
Toll-free Phone: (800) 441-7215
Fax: (518) 564-3397