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Recommendation Letters

Ask two individuals who know you well, whose opinions you trust, and who want to see you succeed to write your recommendation letters. These recommenders must be able to provide specific examples, anecdotes, and evidence.

  • Register the recommenders through your online application as early in the application process as possible.
  • The application system will send each recommender a personalized link to submit her/his/their recommendation online.
  • Recommendations are due by the application deadline: October 14, 2020 at 1:00 PM Pacific Time. You need to submit your completed online application by the deadline, even if your recommendation letters have not been submitted.

Here are a few things to consider as you choose recommenders:

  • We care about the content of the letter, not about merely the title or status of the person who wrote it.
  • The strongest letters we receive come from individuals who have interacted with you closely, extensively, and recently (typically in the last two or three years).
  • The recommendations may be from academic, community, or professional contexts.
  • You may not write, draft, edit, translate, or submit the letter of reference.
  • It is inappropriate to ask a family member to provide a recommendation letter.

We ask your recommenders to assess some character and leadership traits in the reference letters, and to address the following topics:

  1. Please explain how you know and interact with the applicant.
  2. How have the applicant’s actions and insights benefited others? Please provide specific examples.
  3. What is the most important instance of constructive feedback that you have given the applicant? Please explain the circumstances and how the applicant responded?
  4. What does the candidate need to continue her/his/their intellectual development and professional growth?
  5. Is there anything else — positive or negative — that we should know about the applicant?


Sample Form PDF Sample of Recommendation Letter

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q: Can I ask my family or friend to write a recommendation letter?

A: It is inappropriate to ask a family member to provide a recommendation. A friend is different from a peer. A peer is someone who you may have worked with either in a team capacity or individually for a project or collaboration. You may ask a peer for a recommendation.

Q: I have both personal and work email addresses for my recommender.  Which one should I use for the application?

A: For verification purposes, please register your recommenders using her/his work email account, not a personal account such as Gmail, Yahoo!, etc.

Q: Can I ask the same person to provide recommendations for both Knight-Hennessy Scholars and my graduate degree program? 

A:  It is fine to ask the same person to provide recommendations for your graduate program and for the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program, but ensure that he/she submits distinctive letters of reference.

Q: Do you review the recommendation letters from my graduate degree program?

A: Your Knight-Hennessy Scholars recommendations are the only reference letters that we will review before we provide input to your graduate program.

Q: I am ready to submit my application but I am missing my recommendation letter(s). What do I do?

A: Do not delay submitting your application because you are waiting for a recommendation(s). We understand sometimes unexpected situations arise and you may not be able to hear from your recommender in time. Again your application itself must be completed and submitted by the deadline.


Last updated June 30, 2020


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