Better Letters: Equitable Practices
When graduate admissions committees meet to review applicant files, letters of recommendation are one component of the holistic review process that provides information about the applicant’s previous work, personality, and potential for success as a doctoral student. In order to ensure that letters of recommendation are effective tools for enhancing equity, we must critically assess how we write, read, and solicit letters of recommendation. This is especially important because numerous studies have demonstrated the presence of implicit biases in letters of recommendation (Dutt et al, 2016; Madera et al., 2019; Trix & Psenka, 2003). The presence of these biases in letters of recommendation can influence how prospective students are evaluated by admission committees and therefore may produce and reproduce racial and gender inequality in doctoral education.