How to ask for a letter of recommendation


Asking a professor, administrator, or employer for a letter of recommendation can be intimidating. Some compare it to asking someone out on a first date. You may be nervous, unsure of his/her opinion of you, and fearful of rejection. No need to worry though. Below are some helpful suggestions to make asking for a letter of rec less daunting.

  • Understand the purpose of letters of recommendation. They help personalize your application. The letters add support to the story you have already begun to craft through your statement of purpose, and give insights to your character from an outsider’s opinion.You’re requesting the writer to vouch for you and your capabilities. Be confident in the fact that you have much to offer; you’re simply asking the writer to share your potential with others.
  • Ask someone who knows you. Think of instructors, professors, administrators, coaches, or employers who are familiar with your work habits, accomplishments, and potential. Their letters will be more genuine than a standard boilerplate letter from someone who doesn’t know you.
  • Ask early. This gives the person plenty of time to write a sincere letter. if it means they have to stress to fit it into their schedules, instructors, administrators, and employers will be less likely to agree to writing a letter. Approaching them early also alleviates pressure on your end. If he/she says no, you have time to go to Plan B.
  • Provide all necessary materials the writer will need. If you are asking professors or instructors, be sure to provide them with the course you took of theirs and the grade you received (if it’s worth noting). Although the professor hopefully remembers you, he/she may not remember your accomplishments. Also, if they need to send the letter directly to the university or program, provide them with stamped envelopes.
  • Make sure all instructions and deadlines are clearly laid out when explaining to them the purpose behind the letter. Be sure to provide them with background information – what program you’re applying, why you believe this program will be beneficial, and your future career goals. This will help them formulate their letter and tailor it specifically to the program.
  • Send a handwritten thank-you note. Acknowledge your appreciation of the time the writer took out of his/her schedule to help further your education and career.

Not sure of what wording to use? For email templates, please click here.



Posted on

February 22, 2017

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