“Applications must include three letters of reference…”
If you’re applying for graduate research fellowships and grants, you will likely find something along these lines in the application instructions. These letters are absolutely critical to the success of your application, yet you have no control over them — or do you?
There is no “one-size-fits-all” set of guidelines on this topic. Letters of reference are by their very nature highly personal. Ways of building relationships will also vary according to discipline, the nature of the research, and the applicant’s career goal. That’s why it’s essential to get advice from your advisor and talk with other students in your program about their own successful strategies. However, there are a few overarching points to consider.