Letters of recommendation...?


I'm looking into grad school and I'm a bit flummoxed by the requirements for letters of recommendation. They are not to come from friends/co-workers/associates, so I would assume they need to come from a supervisor. Additionally, it is "highly recommended" that at least one letter come from an academic source.

I did my RN to BSN program online through the local college several years back and I doubt my instructors would even remember me personally. I emailed the nursing program director to see if there is any way I can eke a recommendation out of that (my grades were good, so if there is some standard way they handle letters of recommendation I would hope I'd be okay on that front).

I have only worked sporadically for the past three years due to being home raising kids. I've worked part-time while finishing up my BSN and then mostly weekends and nights. The place I currently work has had a string of "structural" changes and I haven't had the same supervisor for more than six months. My current supervisor has been in that position for about two weeks, and I'm about to leave them in somewhat of a bind as I'm quitting and they have been taking grievous advantage of my PRN status so they will surely not be happy about that. It isn't something I'm doing on purpose, I'm just exhausted by constant swings in duties/schedules/supervisors/etc.

My prior workplace (of many years) I washed out of on a bad note, burning most of my bridges there with supervisors unfortunately. I have no other significant work history.

Feeling very discouraged about this step and am looking for any advice as well as input into how important these letters are in the process. I feel confident about my interview abilities and essay, and my undergrad GPA is 3.63 so I think I'm good there. Just don't even know where to start with these letters.

UVA Grad Nursing

1,068 Posts

This answer will vary from school to school (and perhaps from program to program within that school); I would recommend that you contact the admissions office of the school where you are applying. In a competitive admissions process (many more applicants than spaces available), recommendations are important.

At the University of Virginia, we have different LOR requirements depending on the program to which you are applying. The Advanced Practice MSN, non-APN MSN, Master's Entry (for non-nurses), DNP, and PhD programs all have different recommendations expectations and requirements.

llg, PhD, RN

13,469 Posts

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 46 years experience.

You're not going to like my response, but I mean it with kindness and hope you can take it that way.

Developing a "good professional reputation" is a legitimate prerequisite for graduate school -- and it is reasonable for a school to want someone in a legitimate position to attest to the quality of your professional skills and behaviors. One of the problems with attending online schools is that you are less likely to develop the types of relationships with the professors that will come in handy when you need someone to vouch for you. And of course, it's almost always a good thing to develop positive relationships with supervisors and other colleagues who could vouch for you if necessary.

I had a similar issue when I applied for my PhD program -- 10 years after graduating with my MSN. I tracked down my academic advisor (who had moved on to another institution) and got a recommendation. I also got a recommendation from a local nursing instructor who I had worked with in the clinical area and for whom I had done a couple of guest lectures.

Perhaps you should treat this challenge as if it were a prerequisite course you need to take before you can be admitted. Work with a local school, do some volunteer work, etc. that will help you establish a professional relationship with someone who can provide you with a recommendation. It might delay your entry into school, but it might be a necessary step for you.

Another possibility is that perhaps your chosen school would allow you to take a class or two -- with some sort of "conditional acceptance." I served on an admissions committee years ago that had the ability to offer "probationary acceptances" to candidates we felt were worth taking a chance on, but who did not quite meet all of our qualifications on paper.


97 Posts

Hmmm, do you ever volunteer? Maybe at your church or at your children's school?

Specializes in Adult Nurse Practitioner. Has 40 years experience.

When I had to obtain my letters, I was fortunate that I have known two of the three nurse practitioners I contacted for more than five years. The third one I developed a nice rapport with during one of my clinical rotations during my RN-BSN online program. I then had a 4th APN do a letter for me...she has her MSN in education and I have known her for over 15 years. My school requested that all the letters come from APNs and at first I was like "arghhhhh", but then I realized I actually knew more APNs than I thought. Good luck.