I have a few questions about letters of recommendation for graduate school. I'll include my current situation, as I'm not sure what is relevant and what is not. I'm entering my fourth year of my bachelors in math, but I may stay an extra couple semesters to finish my minor (I also had a small setback, so doing the degree in 4 years wasn't entirely possible). I'll be applying for grad school in math. Here are my questions:

  1. Can you ask a Prof to give a letter of reference to more than one university? For example, lets say that each school I apply to requires 3 letters of reference. Then, if I were to apply to 3 grad schools, would I need 9 distinct professors to ask for letters?

  2. Do I get to see the letters which are sent?

  3. There is one Prof who I've taken a course under, and I did well in his class. During that term, I showed an interest in the material, but I also think he does not like me (well, I'm not sure). This may or may not be the case, but let's say it is. Would it be unwise to ask this person for a letter?



1 Answer 1

  1. Yes. It's quite typical to ask each prof to write a letter for each school you apply to. Indeed, you almost certainly want to do this. Be sure to take care of all the paperwork beforehand, pre-address envelopes if any applications use snail mail, etc. so he/she doesn't have to.

  2. No.

  3. Hard to say. I'd find someone else in your department (who knows the prof in question) to ask. Good luck!

  • Thanks for the reply! I was mainly worried about the first part. If you don't mind me asking, what sources do you have for this? I don't mean concrete sources, but things like: are/were you a grad student, are you a professor, etc..?
    – lettersq
    Commented Aug 18, 2013 at 2:33
  • Actually, you can see the letters but only if you do not waive your right in the online letter of recommendation form and are subsequently accepted and decide to attend said school. It is bad form to do this though.
    – Shion
    Commented Aug 18, 2013 at 2:37
  • 1
    @Shion: That's true, some places have laws that allow you to view your entire record, including letters written on your behalf, unless you waive that right. Note that when letters are submitted online (which is almost universal these days), the professor often is told whether or not you have waived your rights, and if you haven't, she very well might decide not to submit the letter at all. Commented Aug 18, 2013 at 5:01
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    Many faculty (including me) simply refuse to write recommendation letters unless the student explicitly waives their right to read the letter later.
    – JeffE
    Commented Aug 18, 2013 at 13:50
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    I should have qualified my comment by saying that this is true for schools in the US. I do not know about other countries.
    – Shion
    Commented Aug 18, 2013 at 16:15

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