When should I approach letter writers? What if I plan to take some time off before I go to graduate school? Professors and supervisors are generally pleased to write on your behalf; however, they are usually involved in many activities. Faculty are especially busy during the months of November and December. Be considerate of your letter writers’ time and approach them at least two months before you need the letter. If you plan to take some time off before going to graduate school, don’t wait until you want to apply to graduate school to ask for letters. Your professors could be on sabbatical, or you may not be fresh in their minds anymore. So, ask professors for a "general" letter of recommendation before you leave Cal and place their letters in a safe place, like the Career Center’s Letter Service. When you are ready to apply to graduate school, contact professors again, and ask them to update your letters.
Use standard formal letter writing conventions to begin. A letter of recommendation is like any other professional communication, and follows the same general rules and guidelines. Place your address on the top right, followed by the date—spelled out. Below that, on the left, place the recipient’s name (if known) and address. Open the letter with a formal business greeting. Ex: Dear Ms. Smith, Dear Sir or Madam, (if you don’t know the recipient’s name)