Letter Service - Getting Letters

You should ask for recommendations from people who can write a credible and supportive statement regarding your qualifications for admission or educational employment. It is important that the letter writer knows you well, thinks well of you, and is willing to write a thoughtful appraisal of your qualifications. Many letters will be from professors, instructors, graduate student instructors (GSI) or employers. Anyone can submit letters on your behalf as letter writers do not have to be affiliated with the UC Berkeley campus.

What to give your writer

Once your writer agrees to write a letter, forward the following items to your writer by mail, email, fax or in person:

  1. A waiver statement – This waiver form must be printed from your online account. You need to complete and sign this form before forwarding to your writer. The name you enter on this waiver must be consistent with the name you have for your online letter file.
  2. Letter Form (with or without ranking grid) - These letter forms can be printed from your online account or you can direct your writer to the letter writer Guidelines webpage.  Writers can also use their own professional letterhead. If they complete the ranking gridform separately, they can include that page with their letter.
  3. Copy of (or link to) Guidelines for Writing Letters of Recommendation.
  4. Detailed information. If you want your writer to include specific information about you, make sure you provide this information as well as the type of letter you are requesting, e.g. med school, grad school, general.

What to tell your writer

Always express your appreciation for their time and help. Provide a deadline to send in the letter; 1-2 months lead time is reasonable. Let them know that they have a choice between using their own professional letterhead or one of the Letter Service letter forms. Most importantly, ask them to do the following when they forward their letter to our office:

  1. All letters must be printed on business letterhead and have their contact information and signature.
  2. Sign the letter in black or blue ink. Light colored inks do not scan well.
  3. Forward their letter and the waiver statement together.

Letters and waivers forwarded to the Letter Service may be sent by campus mail, by regular or express mail, by courier, or may be hand-delivered. If a writer hand-delivers their letter, staff may ask to see identification to verify that they are the author of the letter. If your writer gives the letter to you to hand-deliver yourself, please make sure the letter is in a sealed envelope with this writer’s signature across the seal.

Letters and waivers may also be sent electronically. We will accept letters and waivers as a PDF to letter@berkeley.edu. All letters must be printed on professional letterhead, have the writer’s contact information and signature.

What you need to know

The waiver statement and Letter Form (or your writer's professional letterhead) are used to replace specific recommendation forms and waivers distributed by many educational institutions, with some exceptions.

The waiver statement, indicating whether you want the recommendation to be confidential or not, must be completed and signed by you. The information on this form is used to identify you from other clients with identical names. That is why we also ask for your email address and last four digits of your SS# on this waiver statement. Once you have designated the confidentiality status for a letter, you cannot change its status.

The Letter Service accepts only generic letters not addressed to specific schools or programs. We strongly recommend candidates for professional and graduate school maintain no more than three to five letters in their file. Admission officials indicate that two or three letters are sufficient, and that the quality of letters is more important than the quantity of letters. If you are a medical school candidate, at least one recommendation should be obtained from a science faculty member. Please feel free to consult with a career counselor regarding your situation. If you are a candidate for academic employment, you should follow the advice of your department advisors regarding the number of letters needed for your academic specialty.

If you have an approved matching form, you may submit it to the Letter Service to be posted to your online list of letters. Your matching forms must be posted online before you make a request to forward letters and forms to institutions that require these forms.


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