Monday, November 26, 2012

Asking for Letters of Recommendation

"Letter Writing." Web log post. N.p., n.d. Web. 
There is a lot to consider when thinking about the Letters of Recommendation and your application.  Finding out who to ask, what the contents of the letter should be, making sure the letter gets in on time, and then, doing this three times over.  This process is like managing a small project, where the content-creation and the control are out of your hands but you have to ensure the completion of each task and provide the vision.  Keep reading to find out how to make this process more manageable, and ultimately, to make your application ready for the admissions committee. 

Who do I ask?
In my opinion, this is the most important part of the process.  Start by thinking about what you want to showcase in your application.  Are you presenting in your application that you are an involved student / employee, a strong leader, someone who has been successful after overcoming difficulties, or maybe one of each?  Take a cue from your personal statement and find the professional people in your life who can highlight your stated qualities.  Though, keep in mind that these letters should come from an academic or professional member: faculty from class, faculty from research,or someone who has supervised your recent work.  Remember, you choose your recommenders so find the people who can voice your exceptional qualities, academic and professional potential, and who can recommend you to UMSI.  

How do I ask?
It takes some tact in asking for a letter of recommendation, but it all starts with a request.  Your recommenders are people that should know you, so it should feel relatively comfortable asking for a letter.  

I feel the best way to request the letter is in conversation: office hours, a work meeting, meeting for coffee to catch up; or for those long distance, a phone call or email request work well.  Part of the conversation should include why you are interested in graduate school and UMSI in particular. You should also provide your recommenders with information on the field of information, and what qualities you possess that make sense as a graduate student.  The more prompting you do, the easier it may be for the recommender to accept your request to write the letter.  

Once they agree, provide your recommender with the information that allows them to tailor the letter of recommendation to you:

  • Provide them with why you choose them: previous experiences, class projects / papers, interactions and the qualities you know they can highlight best
  • A copy of your résumé 
  • A copy of your personal statement and statement of purpose
  • Information and links to UMSI
  • The directions for submission

When do I ask?
Requesting the letter is an on-going conversation so start early and remain thoughtful of the academic calendar.  Your recommender needs as much time as s/he can get to write on your behalf, though, I suggest at least a 6 week notice.  From requesting to confirming the request, from writing to submitting the letter, the multiple steps involved can span weeks and months.  You judge how busy your recommenders are and how often you interact with them.  The more busy and the less interaction, the more time you want to give your recommender.  One thing you can ask is for a timeline on the completion of the letter and check-in at a later date. 

What's next? Follow-up!
Your application depends on being complete with three (3) letters of recommendation.  Assume your recommenders are busy and will need time to write your letter.  The best you can do is continue the conversation and have check-ins with your recommender until you see in your application that the letter of recommendation has been submitted.

Extra Considerations:
*Use Recent Letters:  The Letters of Recommendation should come from someone who has recently overseen your work / studies.

*"Name Dropping" vs. Using Your Direct Supervisor / Faculty:  You want a recommender who knows you!  We know that our students come from many backgrounds and experiences, and not everyone has had an opportunity to work with someone who understands or works in the information field.  Your letter and recommender should showcase how your qualities demonstrate leadership potential, a team-approach to problem solving, capable of dealing with ambiguity and change, and have a strong commitment to service.  These are all qualities that can take place anywhere and you don't need to "name drop" for the admissions committee to see this side of you.

*Waiving your right to review the letter? This is an option where you allow your recommender to know that you will not be reviewing the letter.  Waiving your reviewing right may allow the recommender to by more honest with the admissions committee.  This has no bearing on the admissions committee, but it may affect what your recommender decides to write.  Discuss this with your recommender for his/her preference.


Asking for your Letter of Recommendation can be a daunting process in itself, but it is well-worth investing the time to find the right recommender.  These letters grant you three additional voices and the added opportunity for the admissions committee to understand you!  The application is your platform to demonstrate how you are the right fit for graduate studies at UMSI and the letters of recommendation support this.  In this light, the recommendations provide the perfect compliment to your application and your essays.

Remember to visit the UMSI application website "MSI Application Requirements" for more information or contact with questions.
written by:
Edgar Nuñez
Information Mentor

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Navigating UMSI Admissions


"268/365 - Default State," Helga Weber,, CC-BY ND 2.0

As you likely have already discovered, the graduate school admissions process can be a little overwhelming. First, there's the big decision to even think about grad school. Then comes the process of deciding what programs to look at, evaluating their offerings, and determining which places would be a good fit for you. The application process itself has its own set of challenges, not to mention the agony of waiting for the schools' decisions following application. Things are tough enough without having to spend hours reading through web pages looking for information you didn't know you needed. So, let us help you navigate. 

If you just want to stay in the know...  

Consider registering with us to receive updates and notifications about important news and upcoming events. This way, if there is information to be had, you will have it! You can also check a box in the form to be contacted by a current student. This is a good option if you have specific questions  or are just looking for another student perspective. We are more than willing to answer questions about the school, classes, Ann Arbor, the admissions process, and whatever else you're wondering about. 

While you're still investigating... 

When I was in the process of researching schools, I discovered that the websites for iSchools contain, you guessed it, a huge mass of information. This was usually a good thing because I could answer my own questions, but I did sometimes find it difficult to find the things I was really looking for. So, here are some links to streamline your process if you're asking: 

Once you're ready to apply... 

After you've decided that you want to apply to UMSI, you will find that this page has all you need.   Here you can locate links to the online application, the place where you can make an account, and also return to the app once you've begun. Also, I cannot stress enough the incredible resource which is the application requirements page. You will save yourself a lot of hassle and confusion if you stick to this map and let it guide your preparation and application process. 

If you have more questions... 

Feel free to send us an email at You can also contact me directly at

Thanks, and good luck!