July 29, 2022

Application Instructions: How to Navigate Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are a key part of your Penn Engineering Online degree program application. The process takes some extra time and planning, so we encourage you to start early! Here’s everything you need to know about who to ask, what to say, and how to make sure your letters hit the mark. 

Choosing Your Recommenders

We require two letters of recommendation, but we strongly encourage you to ask for three so you’ll have a backup. Your recommenders should be individuals who have evaluated you in an academic or work setting (not friends, family, or peer colleagues).  A current or former college advisor, instructor, or work supervisor is a good choice. Applications with only one letter or letters from friends/family/peers will not be evaluated for admission!

  • Select people who know you well. Job title and position are not as important as the recommender’s ability to write specifically about your abilities. 
  • Your recommenders don’t need to work in tech. Not all of our students come from a technical background (with regards to MCIT Online candidates). What’s more important is that the person can address your fit for the program.
  • If you don’t have an academic reference or direct supervisor, all is not lost! Consider reaching out to other people who have evaluated your performance, such as clients (if you own a business), military personnel, or community leaders.

Asking for Letters of Recommendation

No one likes a last-minute scramble, so reach out to your recommenders well in advance of the submission deadline—ideally at least 3 weeks before the letters are due. Here are some tips for a productive ask: 

  • Set the stage. Describe the Penn Engineering Online degree program and explain how it will help you reach your goals. 
  • Be very clear. When you ask someone to write a letter for you, it helps to explain to them why you’ve chosen that individual. Also, be very clear about everything the request entails, including the submission deadline (see below). 
  • Emphasize your strengths. Explain how your skills and attributes will contribute to your success in the program so that your recommender can incorporate that information in your letter. 

What Your Recommenders Need to Know

Make sure your recommenders understand the guidelines for letters of recommendation:

  • Letters must be written in English
  • It is preferred that letters be written on official letterhead of the recommender’s organization or institution whenever possible
  • Please include the recommender’s signature, name and organization
  • Letters can range from 500 to 1,500 words
  • Letters must be submitted through the online application system by the application deadline

Letters should reference the Penn Engineering Online degree program that you are applying to and cannot be reused from a different program. If you applied to a Penn Engineering Online degree program  in the past, you may reuse the recommenders you submitted at that time if you choose to do so — but the recommenders will need to resubmit their letters.

How the Process Works

As part of the online application, you’ll provide contact information for your 2-3 references. The system will then send each reference a unique link to the application portal, where they will answer a few questions and upload their letter. 

If the questions in the recommendation form aren’t relevant to your recommenders, they should reframe them to the best of their ability. For example, your recommender can respond to “How many students do you supervise?” by writing about their role in supervising employees.

Due Dates

All letters of recommendation are due by the application deadline. Late letter submissions will not be considered and will disqualify your entire application from the admissions cycle. So make sure your recommenders are aware of the application deadline and send reminders!

Learn More

Get more tips on letters of recommendation by watching our Application Guide or by browsing our collection of recent Admissions Webinar Recordings. You can find additional support by exploring our comprehensive FAQs. You can also contact us at any time to connect directly with our team for support as you work on assembling your application — we’d love to hear from you!