How Interfolio Actually Works for Graduate References / LORs

woman in yellow jacket holding books

Ah, applying to graduate school, the warm-up crucible for the real deal, academia. Transcript fees, diploma fees, NACES evaluation fees, application fees and–what’s this? Fees to send LORs?

Yes, if you’re using Interfolio.

If you’re anything like me, you probably want to know what you’d be paying for (a smooth $48 for the first 50 sends, as of 2022), and more importantly, how it will actually work once you are in it. And if you were searching before I wrote this post, there was a concerning lack of information of how you actually use the Interfolio system to send the LORs to your target schools.

Man, they sure made it easy to sign up, though.

Not to worry. I stumbled my way through it so I can share with you how to use Interfolio to send your recommendation letters, and here’s the key part: When you’re filling out the application at your target school and it asks for your recommender’s email address, you DON’T use their email address. You use the Interfolio email address for that recommender. Here’s how it works.

How to Send LORs with Interfolio

1. Ask your recommenders to send your recommendation letters into Interfolio.

This has to be the first step–no letters equals no email fields equals no email addresses. When you first log in to Interfolio, you’ll be prompted to modify a basic letter requesting that your recommenders upload their letters to Interfolio, along with your recommender email addresses. Once you hit send, Interfolio sends the email with a link to each recommender.

Pro tip: If you’re using Interfolio for multiple schools (and at $48, I hope you can), be sure to use the deadline date for the earliest-closing application!

2. Keep tabs on the letters that come in.

Each time a recommender uploads their letter, you will get a confirmation from Interfolio. You will not have access to the actual contents of the letter, but if you go to Letters from your Dossier page, you can double-check the status for each letter.

3. Use the Interfolio email address for each letter in your institution’s application.

When you get to the section of your graduate application that asks for the recommender’s email address, you won’t put their actual email address in that field–you use the email address for their letter in Interfolio. To access this:

  • Go to Letters
  • Click View Details for the letter you want to use
  • Scroll down to Document Email
  • Copy the email address shown, and paste it into your application for that recommender
  • Then, when you submit that LOR request to the institution, Interfolio will kick them the letter.

4. Keep tabs on whether your institutions receive the letters.

Sometimes technology fails. In Interfolio’s case, they report that about 85% of LOR requests can’t be processed because the institution is asking extra questions in support of the recommendation. If this is the case, your referee will need to send the letter directly. Keep an eye on your applications, especially as the deadline comes close, and give yourself plenty of time to email the institution and/or Interfolio to resolve any problems.

Why Use Interfolio?

So what’s the benefit of Interfolio, anyway?

There are some cons to using Interfolio. Two big ones are the added cost and the reality that Interfolio letters of recommendation cannot be personalized to the institution. Hopefully, your letter writer does not upload a letter that starts Dear Northwestern… when you are sending the same letter to Cornell.

It’s more complicated for the applicant to use this system, that much seems clear. But as it’s now common for an applicant to target 8-10 schools (or more), think about your letter writers! If you can use Interfolio for just three or four of your applications, you might cut the time your referee spends on recommending you in half. Taking into account that the letter alone might take them an hour, doing them the kindness of a few less emails and uploads seems worthwhile.

Especially if you have to apply again next year.


Happy applying, and good luck!


PS: Interfolio, if you’re looking for technical writers to fix that documentation, hit me up.

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