Letters of Recommendation

In support of each application, a minimum of three letters of recommendation are required; up to five are accepted. These letters must be submitted electronically through the online application. Letters of recommendation as attachments to an email or by fax are not accepted.

The Division accepts confidential letters of recommendation submitted through Interfolio. Electronic delivery should be directed to the University of Chicago–Division of Social Sciences Graduate Admissions. To have letters submitted through Interfolio, enter the unique Interfolio email address in place of your recommender's email address in our application system. Once the request is received by Interfolio, log in to their system to approve the submission. After that is completed, Interfolio will upload your recommendation to your application, typically within 48 hours.

Recommendation Letter Policies and Procedures

Recommendation letters must be written entirely by the recommender. Applicants are required to certify they did not write or submit the letter themselves. If a recommender asks you to write or draft a letter, please let them know that you can provide them with supporting information, but that you are not allowed to write your own letter. Anyone who agrees to write a recommendation letter for you should understand that they are expected to write and submit it themselves. We do not accept recommendation letters from the applicant.

Applicants requesting recommendation letters via our application system will be asked whether they waive their FERPA rights. FERPA stands for the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, a US law. FERPA gives you the right to view or inspect your education records at schools you have attended. You cannot request to view your application materials under FERPA if you do not actually enroll at the University of Chicago. “Waiving” your FERPA rights means you give up the right to see the letters if you enroll, which means the recommender and the committee can trust that it is confidential.

Your recommenders will see if you waived your rights or not. Many will not submit a letter if you did not waive your rights. They want to be sure that their letter is confidential. Admissions committees will also see whether you waived your rights. If you did not, they may assume that your recommender wrote a different letter than they would have if it were guaranteed to be confidential. Both recommenders and committees usually prefer that you agree to waive.

Recommendation Letter Guidance

Recommenders should be individuals who can speak best to your academic skills and experience, particularly with regards to your intended area of study. Because of the highly specialized graduate training at UChicago, letters from faculty or instructors at academic institutions are typically the most useful in the admissions process. The strongest letters of recommendation are likely to be written by faculty or instructors with whom you have had a long and successful working relationship. Faculty who have supervised your research are often able to write strong, detailed letters.

If you will be asking an instructor to write a letter, consider how long you have known them, how many of their classes you have taken, whether you have been actively engaged in those classes, and whether you have produced lengthy papers or other significant projects for that person. Receiving a good grade in a class may not be enough to guarantee a strong or useful recommendation letter for the purpose of gaining admission to graduate school. Faculty admissions committees want to know what kind of professional colleague you are likely to become, what drives you intellectually, how you go about solving problems, and how committed you are to your goals.

The majority of references (e.g. at least two out of the three) should be faculty who have taught you or who have supervised research in your area of study. It is also acceptable to submit letters from individuals in related fields if the skills and experiences gained are relevant to your intended course of study. For example, an applicant to Economics might submit a letter from a Mathematics professor, or an applicant to Sociology might submit a letter from a Statistics professor. Professional references are also acceptable if the individual has supervised research, or the professional experience is relevant to your area of study.

We also recognize that some applicants who have been away from school for a year or more may have trouble obtaining letters of recommendation from their former instructors. Many colleges and universities nowadays offer credential services that store letters of recommendation in perpetuity. We strongly advise applicants to make use of such services before leaving a particular school so that letters of recommendation are always available to them.

Additional Guidance for Letters to the Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics:

It will be particularly helpful to the graduate admissions committee if the recommender can provide the following information, if applicable:

  • Rank the performance of the applicant in their class or program (e.g. 3rd of 23).
  • Compare the applicant to others with similar backgrounds who are applying or have recently applied to similar economics Ph.D. programs (e.g. the applicant is better than X who is attending University Y but not as good as Z who is also applying to UChicago).
  • If a recommender is writing letters for more than one applicant, compare and rank them as completely as possible.