Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation that assess a student's academic performance and personal achievement are very important. The letter should focus on the student's academic abilities, particularly his/her analytical ability and writing ability. Some things you might consider discussing include: writing ability, research ability, ability to work independently, and ability to undertake and successfully complete a major project.
Ideally, letters from professors are preferred because their years of teaching/research may allow them to provide a more comprehensive evaluation through comparison with previous students. If you have been unable to build a relationship with a faculty member, a GSI is acceptable, particularly if he/she can speak with greater ease to your intellectual assets and abilities. Letters from employers or supervisors who have evaluated your work are also valuable supplements to academic letters. Character references are not solicited. Plan to acquire personal references by the end of your junior year if you are applying senior year. If you are taking at least a year off before applying you have your senior year to gather your letters of reference. Letters should be requested and ideally filed before you leave campus or shortly thereafter-this will make your application process later much easier.
Letters of recommendation may be processed three ways:
- as part of your CAS file
- at the Reference Letter Center in the Career Center, 3200 SAB http://www.careercenter.umich.edu/topic/reference-letter-service
- individually with each law school.
- Your Letters of Recommendation Cover Forms are available by logging onto your Online Services account, go to the My Docs tab, and select Forms. Your Letters of Recommendation Cover Forms are only available after you register for the CAS.
- The Career Center creates a Reference Letter File, with a standard form, that evaluates you in comparison to other students along with a narrative statement. Their file is maintained for a minimum of five years for an opening fee of $25.00 and a nominal charge to send copies of the letters to CAS upon your request.
- Lastly, each law school application (paper or online) has it's own letter of recommendation form.
Any of the three ways of gathering letters of recommendation are acceptable and there are advantages and disadvantages to each, so take the time to evaluate what will be best for you.
Be sure to ask your evaluators if they are comfortable writing a letter of recommendation and specifically ask for comparison to other students/workers and a statement of your perceived/validated intellectual stamina. Inquire if the online evaluation service that rates both cognitive and non-cognitive attributes and skills is a better more convenient option for your evaluator-it is done online. Only some schools take either a letter or the evaluation, so check each school where you plan to apply.
LSAC requires you to write a "description" for each letter and specifically attach each letter/evaluation to each school where you apply.
Consult the Career Center website on Reference Letter Service for additional insight.
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