The top five secrets to...

        Getting a great recommendation letter!

1.     The best letters will come from research mentors.  Who did you do some research with, either on internship or on campus?  Usually, they can give you solid recommendations.

2.     If you're asking a teaching professor for a letter, then in whose class(es) were you most engaged, interested and actively participating?  It's not only if you did well in the class, it's if you were memorable.

3.     More recent references are better.  Did you do well in gen chem?  Great, but that was 3 years ago.  What did you do since then?

4.     Write a nice request letter to your potential referee.  Include your name, reason for writing, and a brief reminder about you (when you did research, or your grade and standing in class, participation record, and/or other items that remind the writer about you). 

5.     Don't forget the logistical items!  Especially: 

·       What is the purpose of the letter (internship, job, grad/professional school)? 
·       To whom is the letter addressed (a name is so much better than "To Whom it May Concern")?  
·       Where does it go (email or address)?
·       And, most importantly, when is it due?