Applying to a new opportunity can be an exciting yet nerve-racking experience due to the many moving parts, from the personal statement to the transcripts and letters of recommendation. This page might be helpful for your SASLI application or another opportunity, be it a job application, graduate school, or a scholarship.
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Official Transcripts are printed on security paper or encrypted as a secure PDF. Unofficial Transcripts are typically plain PDFs that can be easily attained and shared.
SASLI, like many other institutions, accepts unofficial transcripts because they are easier to request, obtain, and share. In addition, many institutions only allow a set number of official transcript requests, so asking for an unofficial transcript would be more beneficial.
Other pointers for requesting and sending transcripts:
- Do submit all of your most recent transcripts. If you have attended different institutions in the last two or three years, submit transcripts from all institutions.
- Do submit your transcripts all at once. If you submit transcripts from different institutions, combine them into one electronic document to send together to reduce the potential of misplacing pieces of your application.
- Do not submit a screenshot or other screen capture of your grades. Often, a screenshot will not include the same information as an academic transcript, and the institution will reject those formats.
- Contact your institution early, especially if you are planning to request an official copy of your transcript. Transcripts can take time to receive, perhaps even weeks if sent via the postal service. Be sure to know in advance of applying how long it might take for your transcript to be ordered and received.
- Let the institution know if your transcript is taking longer than usual and you are worried about missing the deadline. Likely, they will understand that things happen – communication is key!
Asking for Recommendation Letters
Whether you’re applying to a SASLI/WISLI scholarship, graduate programs, scholarships, or another opportunity, asking for a recommendation is an important skill. The information below is a quick guide to finding recommenders and asking them for a letter.
Select someone who knows who you are.
There is a misconception that you should ask a professor with a “big name” to write your letter of recommendation. While having someone well-known in the field write you a recommendation letter can be beneficial, if the individual does not know you, their letter will come out unoriginal.
Instead, choose someone who knows you well enough to discuss your strengths, weaknesses, and accomplishments. Now, if you truly want that “big name,” you’ll have to put in the work. Actually, with anyone you want to write a recommendation letter for you, you need to put in the work. Show up during office hours, volunteer or acquire a job helping with research, ask questions, and build a professional relationship with those who can advocate for you.
Ask in advance of your application deadlines.
Give your recommenders – AT MINIMUM – three weeks before the application deadline. If possible, bring up the idea as you are in the early stages of the application process. The more you offer them in the way of your goals and the direction of the application, the better they will be able to tailor their recommendation to you and your goals.
How do you ask someone? Doing so in person is a great option, though this can sometimes be difficult to arrange. You can also send them an email. Regardless, be upfront and honest: explain your goals, what you are applying for, why you need a recommendation, and why you chose them. If they say no, do not be angry. Thank them for their consideration and move on to find another individual. A variety of situations can cause someone to say no to a recommendation, from being too busy to simply not feeling like they know you well enough. It does not matter why someone said no. Instead, focus on finding someone willing and available to provide you with a letter. These are the people who will write you the best recommendation.
Give your recommenders your materials.
Share a copy of your application materials with your professors, advisors, employers, or whoever is writing your recommendation.
Include your personal statement, application essays or summaries of your goals, a resume or list of activities, volunteer work, organizations in which you participate, relevant work or research experience, your transcript, class papers, or whatever else is relevant to the opportunity. You do not have to include all of these options, only what will be helpful to your recommender to talk about where you have been and help you get to what’s next.
Stay on top of application instructions and deadlines.
Inform your recommenders in advance of the deadline to submit their letter and how. Know which institutions require them to directly submit their letter and which require you to submit it on their behalf., and notify your recommenders what is required of them when submitting their letter.
What to do if your recommender has yet to submit their recommendation? If you notice that the deadline is quickly approaching or has passed, but your letter has yet to be uploaded/received, send a kindly worded email to your recommender reminding them of the deadline and inquiring about the status of your letter. Remember, asking your recommenders as early as possible will be key to avoiding this situation!
If you miss a deadline, explain your situation to the office expecting your application materials to ask if there is anything you can do in the meantime.
Always say thank you.
As one last step, send your recommenders a thank you note expressing your appreciation for their help and support throughout the application process. As you begin receiving your responses, keep them in the loop. Maintaining this relationship will be helpful in the future, regardless of where you go next.
If you do have additional questions, the following resources might be beneficial:
Thank you to Stanford University for providing the background of this information. You can find their version here: https://undergrad.stanford.edu/academic-planning/engage-faculty/asking-letters-recommendation
Writing a Personal Statement
The statement of purpose is one of the most important pieces of an application because it’s an opportunity to really show who you are. Below are a few things to remember as you write and polish your statement.
Understand the guidelines and prompt.
Usually, applications will have a list of expectations for their applicants’ statements. Such requirements may pertain to length, format, questions to address, and academic and professional goals, to name a few. While these instructions may seem like recommendations, treat them as rules.
If you’re not provided any guidelines, here are some recommendations:
- Keep your statement between 1 and 2 pages.
- Talk about what you’re applying for and your compatibility with the opportunity. If it’s a grad school or other academic program, address why you chose that program over others. Think about the location, instructors, and anything drawing you to the program – and then explain the connection to your background and goals. If the opportunity is a scholarship, you can talk about your qualifications.
- Describe a pivotal moment or experience showcasing the values, experiences, and lessons you want to discuss in your statement. Did you have an influential class that changed your thoughts about a subject? Talk about that class and your experience. Have you ever had to overcome a challenge or obstacle in your personal life that is somehow relevant to your academic and professional goals? If comfortable, talk about that. Your story does not have to be anything extravagant – you do not need to have saved the world to tell a compelling story. Just be yourself!
- Talk about where you want to go. Why will attending this program help with your academic or professional goals? It’s okay not to have a five-year plan, but think about where you want to go and why this specific opportunity paves your path.
Finally, share your statement with a mentor, teacher, friend, peer, or tutor in your school’s writing center. They can help you at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming ideas to establishing the outline or content to proofreading.
If you need additional assistance, the following links are excellent resources for writing your statement of purpose.