Wishes and Messages

Letter to request recommendation

  1. Home
  2. Anniversary Wishes
  3. Letter to request recommendation
Letter to request recommendation
December 05, 2018 Anniversary Wishes 5 comments

Before you choose which professor to ask for a recommendation, ask yourself: Start the first paragraph by stating what you want: "I am writing to ask if you.

Asking a professor for a letter of recommendation can be an anxiety-producing experience. However, if you follow the protocol below, you can rest assured that your actions are professional and appropriate. Since you are asking a professor to take hours out of his/her life to help you, do not waste the recommender’s time by being disorganized or thoughtless. While this handout is tailored for academic letters, these guidelines apply for asking for non-academic recommendations as well.

1. 2 months before recommendation is needed: Decide which professor(s) might write a recommendation on your behalf. As part of your considerations, ask yourself:

  • Has this professor seen my recent work?
  • Have I taken more than one class with this professor?
  • Does this professor know my strengths from experiences both inside and outside the classroom?
  • Have I done well in this professor’s courses?
  • Have I always acted professionally and ethically in regards to this professor and her or his class?
  • Can this professor comment upon my intellectual development and achievement of skills?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, ask this professor.

2. 5-6 weeks before recommendation is needed: Ask the professor either in office hours or by  email if the professor is comfortable writing to  recommend you for your given context, e.g. graduate school, a job, a scholarship.

3. At least a month before the recommendation is needed: If the professor agrees to your request, visit the professor during her/his office hours to discuss your specific plans. During that meeting, prepare a folder for the professor that includes:

  • Your transcript;
  • Your resume, if you have one;
  • Copies of work (papers, projects) you have written for this professor with his/her comments;
  • A working draft of a creative or critical sample to be included in the graduate application so that professor can see a recent snapshot of your  work;
  • A statement of purpose/your application essay. Having at least a working draft of your application essay allows the professor to specifically address your audience and to craft the recommendation to fit your needs. It also shows that you’re serious and your behavior is professional;
  • A list of dates and addresses, with due dates for various letters; indicate which recommendations are to be done on-line and which in paper.

The Piper Center has a helpful form for requesting letters of recommendation. Some professors may find that information useful.

N.B. Some professors will want this information bundled in a paper folder. Some will prefer it all sent electronically. Ask the professor which s/he prefers. Regardless of the format, pass on all the requisite information one time and one time only.

A word about recommendation forms:

  • If you are requesting a paper recommendation, make sure you have filled out the information you must submit and included envelopes and postage.
  • If you are requesting on-line submissions, make sure that you register the professor with the recommended portfolio/application service.

4. After asking for the recommendation but before it is due: If by any chance you no longer need the recommendation, email the professor immediately. Professors spend weekends, holidays, and late nights writing recommendations. It stings to come into school on the Monday after to hear a casual comment like, “Oh, I changed my mind. I am not applying to _____.” Remember, you might want this professor to write a letter for a job or another opportunity later; therefore you do not want to burn a bridge because you made your professor do unnecessary work when you failed to let him or her know of your change of plans.

5. One week before the recommendation is due: You may remind the professor via email. But please only send one reminder.

6. If the deadline passes and the professor has not submitted the recommendation, a follow-up email or visit to the professor’s office is in order.

7. After the recommendation is written: Thank the professor. Some professors welcome email thank you notes, while others find them impersonal. Take into account the nature of the work that you asked of your professor. If s/he helped you with six graduate school applications, you will want to thank the professor in a more personal way than a quick email. Equally important, let the recommender know the outcome of your application. Do not allow rumor, or worse, the college website, to let the professor know of your accomplishments—when he or she put effort in on your behalf. And if you are rejected, a thank you for the
reference opens opportunity for conversation.

A final reminder: you want to make it easy for your recommender to strongly recommend you. Act professionally and politely. You may need to call upon that professor again and again.

How to Request Letters of Recommendation on Naviance. Please make sure you speak in person with the teacher you would like to recommend you FIRST.

Sample Request for a Letter of Recommendation

letter to request recommendation

If you need to ask someone to write a letter of recommendation on your behalf, it's best to put your request in writing. This way, the person you are asking to write the letter knows exactly what you want and will have easy access to all the information necessary to fulfill your request. The sample document provided here can form the basis of your own letter.

Recommendation Letter Request Template

When you click the image below, the template will open as a PDF document that you can customize to suit your purposes. Remember to include your relationship with the person that you are asking. Use this guide for printables if you need assistance.

Related Articles

When the document opens, you can edit it as much as needed. Simply click anywhere in the document to begin making your changes. You can save or print at any time by using the toolbar commands.

Tips When Asking for a Recommendation Letter

Throughout the above sample request of letter of recommendation, you will notice points are clear and concise. When asking for a recommendation, the message needs to get right to the point so the letter can be easily referenced and the reader knows his next course of action. It also needs to be free of errors and written using a professional, respectful tone. After all, you definitely want each person who receives your request to have a positive impression of your level of professionalism.

In addition to making sure that your letter is direct, clear and well-written, there are a few other guidelines you must consider when asking someone to write a recommendation letter.

  • Only ask people who know you well enough to provide the kind of recommendation you need. For example:
    • If you are applying for a scholarship, consider asking past teachers or others who have firsthand knowledge of your efforts as a student.
    • If you want to be considered for a leadership role in a charitable organization, ask people with whom you have worked on service projects.
    • If you need a job-related recommendation, ask people who have worked with you in the past.
  • When you ask a question, the answer might be no. Keep this in mind, and never put a person "on the spot" with this type of request. Be polite and gracious if your request is denied.
  • Try to lead up to the request to get a sense of the person's of comfort level with this type of action and/or whether it is a good time to make such a request. For example, it would not be a good idea to ask a CPA to write a recommendation for you during tax season.
  • Offer to provide more information that might help with writing the recommendation. For example, you could assemble a list of projects you worked on together or a written description of the reason you need the letter.
  • If the person is extremely busy, offer to write the recommendation so he or she only has to review and sign the document.
  • Alternatively, you may want to provide an outline for a sample letter of recommendation that the individual could edit slightly to use on your behalf.
  • Give the person as long as possible to write the recommendation letter, as allotting plenty of time will increase chances it will be completed.
  • Clearly communicate the deadline, so there is no confusion regarding when the letter has to be sent or received.
  • Provide a pre-addressed, stamped envelope to make it easy for the person to send the letter once it is written, with no out-of-pocket cost.
  • Consider requesting one or two more recommendation letters than you actually need. This will ensure that you will not find yourself short a letter if someone does not follow through.

Confirmation

Whether you send your request by mail or email, or deliver it in person, be sure to follow up with the recipient, ideally by phone or in-person with a quick conversation. After all, it would be an error in judgment to assume that everyone you ask will actually be willing and able to provide a recommendation letter for you.

You should confirm each recipient's intention to provide a letter of reference so that you are sure of where you stand and if you need to make additional requests to different people. It's best to follow up shortly after sending your letter of request. Allow enough time for your letter to arrive plus a day or two to increase the likelihood that the recipient has had time to read and think about your request.

Don't Forget to Follow Up

Further, follow up a few days before the deadline with each person who agrees to write a recommendation letter for you. This will allow you to verify which letters have been sent, and serve as an opportunity to remind those who are writing letters of the approaching cut-off date. You should also remember to thank them for helping you.

WATCH THE VIDEO ON THEME: Ask for Recommendations on LinkedIn
joining confirmation letter from employee
Marriage letter sample
christian closing for letters
Professional business thank you letter template
customer complaint response template
Thanks for the hospitality quotes
spend my life with a girl like you
Letter introduction words

How to Ask a Professor for a Letter of Recommendation

letter to request recommendation

Table of Contents

  1. Template Library 1: Student, College, and Teacher Samples
  2. Template Library 2: Employment Related Samples
  3. What is a Letter of Recommendation?
  4. Format – Content Sections, Font, and Margins
  5. Important Steps Before Writing
  6. How to Write a Letter of Recommendation in 9 Steps
  7. Characteristics of a Strong Letter
  8. How to Ask For One
  9. When to Reject a Request

1. Letter of Recommendation Template Library 1: Student, College, and Teacher Samples

Click Here to View All Student and Teacher Templates

2. Letter of Recommendation Sample Library 2: Employment Templates

Click Here to View All Employment Related Templates

3. What is a Letter of Recommendation?

A letter of recommendation (or reference letter) is a document designed to add extra weight and merit to a job or college application. They are usually written by a supervisor, colleague, teacher, or friend.

There are various different types of recommendation letters, but the three main ones are those for employment, for university applications, and character references.

Who Needs Letters of Recommendation? Why Do They Need Them?

Below we’ve outlined all the various types of people and reasons a person might require one, as well as who to ask for one.

#1. Students Applying for University, Grad School, or Scholarships

Almost all universities and scholarship programs require at least two recommendation letters as part of the application process. These reference letters should ideally be written by previous teachers or professors who are familiar with your academic achievements and abilities.

Students need references because admissions officers and scholarship organizations want to get a better understanding of who they are as a person. Recommendation letters help to shed light on the “full package” that is difficult to fully convey in a resume and personal essay.

For more details on who you should ask to write your recommendation, check out our detailed guide on how to ask for one.

It is also acceptable to have your letter written by a coach, guidance counselor, or academic adviser who can speak to your strengths.

#2. People Applying for Jobs That Require Strong References

For most job applications, a well-written resume and cover letter or letter of interest are more than sufficient. However, certain industries or companies may require a letter of recommendation in addition to these basic essentials. Teachers and physician assistants are two such examples of jobs that often need a written reference as part of the application.

Generally speaking, the most convincing reference letters will be those written by a supervisor. In cases where this is impossible (or undesirable), a recommendation from a coworker who is intimately familiar with your work is also acceptable.

#3. People Who Want to Beef Up Their Job Application

If you feel as though your resume and cover letter aren’t particularly strong, a letter of recommendation can help you land a job when it otherwise might be impossible.

A character reference from a friend, teacher, or family member can make all the difference when it comes to job hunting.

This usually occurs when you have little or no work experience. In situations like these, a character reference from a friend, teacher, or family member can make all the difference when it comes to job hunting.

On the other hand, if you’re applying for a particularly competitive job, a strong reference from a previous employer can turn the tide and help you stand out from the crowd.

4. Format — Content & Page Layout (Font, Margins)

Now that we know what a recommendation letter is and who needs one, let’s go through exactly how to structure the content of your letter, as well as the best page formatting and fonts to create a professional look.

Content Format Guide: 7 Basic Sections

No matter who it’s for, including these seven basic parts in your letter will ensure it hits every point needed to write a strong and compelling letter of recommendation.

Part 1. Contact Information and Letterhead

Ideally speaking, your own name, address, and contact information should go in a letterhead at the top of the page. If you don’t have a letterhead, place this information above the date on the top-left side of the page.

Otherwise, the first thing on the top-right side of the page should be the current date, followed by the addressee’s name, title, company or school name, and then address.

Part 2. Salutation

As with any letter, the first line should address the person or body of people you are writing to by name and title. Avoid vague salutations such as “To Whom It May Concern:” unless there are no other options available to you.

Check out the first step of our letter of recommendation writing guide for a more detailed explanation of how to craft the perfection salutation.

Part 3. Introduction: How you know the applicant

Start by expressing your sincere recommendation of the applicant, explain who you are and your relationship with the person you are recommending, including how long you have known them.

Part 4. The Academic, Personal, or Professional Achievements of the Applicant

The second paragraph outlines the relevant academic or professional strengths of the applicant. Include one to two specific and detailed examples that demonstrate the applicant truly does possess these strengths.

Part 5. Personal Traits and Characteristics

The third paragraph is all about personality. Include details of the applicants positive personality traits and examples that clearly showcase them.

Part 6. Explanation of Applicant’s Departure [Optional]

This optional section is only used when writing letters of recommendation for employment. It should also only be included in cases when the applicant’s reason for leaving their previous or current company is either neutral or positive. Such as relocating for family reasons, or outgrowing the opportunities at the company.

Part 7. Conclusion: Call-to-action

Reiterate your wholehearted recommendation of the applicant and encourage the reader to contact you with any questions they may have.

Page Format Guide: 5 Basic Rules

While the content of your letter is the most important element, the appearance of the page still requires some consideration. The alignment, font size and style, and margins can all impact the impression you give the reader.

The following simple guidelines will ensure your recommendation letter looks professional:

  1. Don’t exceed one page in length unless the extra paragraphs and details you are including legitimately strengthen your recommendation. That being said, anything over two pages is definitely too much.
  2. Use a 12-point font to maximize readability and economical use of space. Using an 11-point font in order to maintain a one-page length is acceptable but should be avoided when possible. Anything lower than 11 points is too small.
  3. Stick to basic font stylessuch as Times New Roman, Arial, Helvetica, and Garamond. Avoid any overly stylistic fonts that could affect readability.
  4. 1”–1½” is the sweet spot for margins. You could arguably go slightly over or under these limits to fit everything onto one page, but it’s best to avoid anything too excessive.
  5. Maintain a left alignmentthroughout the entire page to ensure an organized appearance. 

For more specific details on how to format a letter of recommendation, check out our comprehensive business letter format guide.

5. Three Important Steps Before You Begin Writing

Before you stretch your typing fingers, there are a couple of things you must do to ensure your reference letter is as compelling as possible.

Step 1:Ask the Applicant for Information

Ask the applicant for a copy of their resume, cover letter, personal essay, or any other such documents they are submitting as part of their application. Read through them thoroughly and avoid repeating any of the information mentioned unless it is particularly important.

Ask the applicant if there are any particular points or examples they’d like you to mention.

It’s also a good idea to ask the applicant if there are any particular points or examples they’d like you to mention.

Step 2:Conduct Your Own Research

Do some research on the company, university, or scholarship the applicant is targeting, and customize your letter based on their requirements. If you’re writing a letter for a job application, reading through the job description is a great way to get an idea of the specifics you should emphasize.

Step 3:Think About the Type of Letter You are Writing

Depending on the type of recommendation letter you are writing, the tone and contents will differ. If you’re a manager writing for an employee, the tone will be much more formal and contain a lot of detail regarding an applicant’s professional achievements.

On the other end of the spectrum, a character reference from a friend will be written in a more casual tone and focus more on an individual’s personal strengths and characteristics.

If you’re pressed for time, ask the applicant to do all the research for you and then provide a summary of all the important information.

6. How to Write a Compelling Recommendation Letter — 9 Step Guide

Now that we’ve gotten all the little nitty-gritty details out of the way, it’s time to put pen to paper. Following these steps will help you create a convincing letter of recommendation that is sure to be an invaluable part of any application.

Step 1: A Polite and Personable Salutation

The way you greet someone when meeting them for the first time has a huge impact on their first impression of you. The way you address someone in a letter is no different. As such, it’s important to use a polite and personable salutation to start your letter off strong.

A proper salutation should be structured as follows:

Dear+ Title+ Name of Recipient

The title will vary depending on the individual you are writing to. For example, if you are addressing a hiring manager, you would use a general title such as Mr., Mrs., or Ms.

Example #1:

Dear + Mr. /Mrs. /Ms. + Hiring Manager’s Last Name

On the other hand, if you were writing to a Professor or someone with a Phd, you should use their professional title such as Dr. or Professor.

Example #2:

Dear+ Professor+ Professor’s Last Name

Ideally the applicant requesting the letter should provide you with the name of the person who the letter should be addressed to. If not, a bit of quick research on linkedin, or the company/university website should yield some results.

What Should I Do if I Don’t Know the Name of the Recipient?

When you don’t know the name of the recipient, you should still make your salutation as personable as possible. This means avoiding weak openings that make no attempt to directly address the reader.

Even if you don’t know their nameyou should never use “To Whom it May Concern” when addressing the recipient.

Here’s What You Should Do Instead:

Dear+ Titleof Recipient

For example, if you are addressing a university’s dean of admissions whose name you don’t know, write Dear Dean of Admissions. Whereas if you are writing to the hiring manager of a company, write Dear Hiring Manager.

How Should I Address a Letter to a Body of People or an Organization?

When addressing a body of people such as an admissions committee or board of directors you should follow the same principles as those outlined above. The only difference is that the title of the recipient should be replaced by the name of the group or organization.

Here is the exact formula:

Dear+ Name of Group or Organization

The following examples give you a better idea:

  • DearAdmissions Committee
  • DearBoard of Directors
  • DearRhodes Trust

Step 2: Start Your Introduction With a Punch

The first sentence of your recommendation is arguably the most important because it sets the tone for the entire letter. The best openers are those that immediately express the heartfelt and enthusiastic recommendation of the applicant.

Here are some useful phrases you can use to write a strong first sentence:

  • It’s my pleasure to recommend…
  • It’s my pleasure and honor to…
  • I couldn’t be more pleased to…
  • I have absolutely no reservations about recommending…
  • I wholeheartedly recommend…

In comparison, a generic sentence that lacks enthusiasm such as “I am writing with regards to the recommendation for…” is both boring and weak.

Step 3: Establish Your Relationship

The remainder of your introductory paragraph should be devoted to describing who you are and your relationship with the applicant. This is an essential step because it establishes the relevance of your letter.

If you have known the applicant for a good length of time — and are in a good position to evaluate their strengths — then the potency of your letter multiplies. When establishing your relationship, you should include the following points:

  • Your position and company/school
  • The capacity in which you know the applicant
  • How long you have known the applicant

By including these details in the very beginning of your letter, the reader understands the foundation of the relationship that your words are coming from. This context makes everything you say afterwards much more powerful.

Including some anecdotes about your relationship will help strengthen this important foundation.

Step 4: Give Words of Praise

Finish your introduction with a sentence or two highlighting some of the applicant’s key strengths or personality traits.

The following examples will give you an idea of how you should write yours:

  • During that time, I watched Zach grow into an exceptional individual who excels in both his academic and personal pursuits.
  • Gregory was always an outstanding member of our team, and I have always been impressed by his professionalism and admirable personal qualities.

Don’t worry about going into detail. The purpose of these sentences is to round out the first paragraph, while simultaneously serving as a sneak peak of what’s to come in the body of your letter.

Step 5: Showcase the Applicant’s Professional/Academic Strengths

Your first body paragraph should start by mentioning 2–3 of the applicant’s specific skills, talents, or experiences that are relevant to their target job position or college program.

It is essential that these points are then followed up with detailed and descriptive examples of the applicant’s accomplishments that prove the aforementioned abilities.

Take a look at the difference between the following two examples from a reference letter written for a project manager:

No details:

  • Zach is great at managing projects.

Specific and detailed:

  • Zach’s in-depth knowledge of Scrum Methodologies helped increase the amount of projects completed on-time and within budget by 23%

Not only is the second example far more compelling, but it also showcases the professional accomplishment the applicant has that would benefit her target job. When the reader sees these kinds of examples, they think to themselves, “This is the kind of performance I need at my company.

Whenever possible, include interesting anecdotes about the applicant that demonstrate the strengths and abilities you described. This will create a more personable tone that makes the reader feel as though they are getting to know the applicant — one of the key aspects of a strong recommendation letter.

Make sure the achievements you mention are ones that you personally witnessed. Otherwise, they will carry far less weight for the reader.

Step 6: Highlight the Applicant’s Best Personal Qualities

The next body paragraph should focus on 2–3 of the applicant’s positive personality traits and characteristics — particularly those that would be beneficial or desired by their target company or school.

One of the chief reasons universities and certain companies request letters of recommendation is because they want to get a more holistic understanding of the applicant as a person. Thus, only including their academic or professional achievements is not enough to create a persuasive letter.

Much like with the previous step, include relevant and specific examples or anecdotes to backup your claims. Let’s take a look at some examples:

No Details:

  • Joyce is a selfless and compassionate person.

Specific and Detailed:

  • As a member of habitat for humanity, Joyce demonstrated her compassion and selfless nature by providing invaluable tutelage and mentorship to countless underprivileged children.

In case you’re having trouble thinking of compelling ways to describe an applicant’s personality, we’ve created a table containing some of the best personal qualities to include in a letter of recommendation:

AdaptabilityEnergyHonestyResourceful
CompassionEnthusiasmIntegrityResponsible
CharismaFriendlinessIntelligenceTrustworthy
DeterminationGenerosityLeadershipVibrant

Just be sure that you prove that the applicant possesses the personal qualities you mention with specific and detailed examples.

Step 7: Explain Why the Applicant is Leaving [Optional Paragraph for Job References]

This paragraph is only relevant if you’re writing a letter of recommendation for employment purposes. That being said, you should only include this section if the reason the applicant is leaving your current company is either neutral or positive.

The following are a few examples of the types of reasons that would be acceptable:

  • Relocating for family reasons
  • Outgrowing opportunities available at current company
  • Medical reasons
  • Skillset would be put to better use at another company

After reading through a letter describing how amazing an applicant is, it is quite normal for a hiring manager to think to themselves, “If this candidate is so great, why are they no longer at the company?” By including the reason for an applicant’s departure, it helps to assuage some of these doubts.

If you’re unsure whether or not the reason might be seen in a negative light, then it’s safer to exclude this section altogether.

However, if you’re unsure whether or not the reason might be seen in a negative light, then it’s safer to exclude this section altogether.

Step 8: Encourage the Reader to Accept the Applicant

Begin the concluding paragraph by reiterating your complete, unreserved, and enthusiastic recommendation of the applicant. Follow this up by emphasizing the value of the applicant as an asset.

Use strong, authoritative, and confident language when writing this sentence. Take a look at the following examples:

  • I am confident that Jon will make an outstanding member of your university’s community.
  • There is no doubt in my mind that Allison would quickly become an invaluable asset for your team.
  • It is my strong opinion that Matthew would be a tremendous addition to the University of Virginia’s graduate program in Theoretical Physics.

Finally, conclude by encouraging the reader to contact you if they have any questions about the applicant.

Step 9: Politely Sign-off

Your letter closing should be formal and polite. Sincerely, Regards, and Best regards are all great examples. Sincerely is widely considered to be the best sign-off because not only is it undeniably polite, it also carries a warm, friendly tone. In cases where the closing is more than one word, only the first letter of the first word should be capitalized.

Ready to get started? Save yourself some time and effort by downloading and customizing one of our free templates or samples:

Templates and Samples for Students & Teachers

Templates and Samples for Employment & Jobs

7. The Six Characteristics of a Strong Recommendation

Regardless of what kind of content you end up including, keeping these six characteristics in mind throughout the writing process will help take your recommendation to the next level.

#1. It Is Personable:

Your letter should sound like it was written by a real person. The chief reason why colleges and employers request reference letters is because they want to get an idea how an applicant’s qualifications and personal qualities are perceived by another person.

#2. It Comes from a Credible Source:

If your mom writes you a college recommendation letter outlying how you are such a good, nice boy” it is unlikely to be very convincing to the admissions board. It needs to come from an authoritative source and be written in a strong, confident tone.

#3. It Uses Supportive, Positive, and Enthusiastic Language:

A powerful recommendation needs to be enthusiastic and sincere. If the reader feels like you don’t wholeheartedly recommend the applicant, your letter will be weak and unconvincing.

When describing the applicant’s strengths, enhance them with adjectives such as “exceptional,” “outstanding,” and “superb.”

Using adverbs such as “sincerely” and “wholeheartedly” will inject some passion into your words. When describing the applicant’s strengths, enhance them with adjectives such as “exceptional,” “outstanding,” and “superb.”

#4. It is Specific and Detailed:

You should avoid empty cliches such as, “Mollie is the best student/employee I’ve ever had.” Everything you say needs to be specific and backed up by evidence. If Jim really was the best student you ever had, then you need to describe exactly how and why that was the case.

#5. It Contains a Narrative:

By the end of the letter the reader should feel like they have gotten to know both you and the applicant better. Your relationship with the applicant, and your description of their strengths, should feel like a story. Also be sure to include anecdotes demonstrating the applicant’s abilities and traits whenever possible.

#6. It Is Relevant to the Applicant’s Goals:

A strong recommendation should focus on the strength’s an applicant possess that are relevant to their pursuits. For example, in the case of a student applying to a mechanical engineering department, avoid writing about their exceptional literary masterworks and focus on their achievements in science.

8. How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

Asking for a recommendation letter can seem like a daunting task, especially when you’re not sure whether or not the person will accept. This guide will show you exactly how to properly ask for a reference letter, as well as who and when to ask.

If you’ve been asked to write a recommendation and you’re not sure whether or not you should accept, go to the next section for details on exactly when and how to reject a request.

When Should I Ask for One?

You should only ask for letters of recommendation when an application specifically calls for one, or when you believe your application would be weak without one.

The following are examples of when a reference letter would be required or useful:

  • Applying for University
  • Applying for Graduate School
  • Applying for a Scholarship
  • Applying for a job that request ones
  • Applying for an entry-level job with little or no work experience
  • Applying for a job as a teacher
  • Applying to work at a volunteer organization

Who should I ask?

Generally speaking, you should ask someone you have a solid relationship with who can also accurately speak to your strengths from a position of authority. That being said, the best person to ask for a recommendation will depend on the type of application you are making.

Tips on who to ask if I’m a…

a. Student Applying to College or Scholarship:

Pick a teacher who has taught you for a long period of time and whose classes you performed particularly well in. If you are applying for a specific major, consider asking a teacher who taught you a subject related to your target field.

b. Student Applying to Grad School:

Ask a professor with whom you have had extensive interaction, such as one from a course which involved a lot of discussion. Even if you performed exceptionally well in a certain professor’s course, if there were 300 people in the class they would be unable to write an effective letter for you.

If you wrote a thesis paper as an undergrad, your adviser is likely the professor most well-equipped to write your recommendation.

c. Teacher Applying for a Job at a New School:

Ideally, you should ask the principal of your previous school because they can write you a letter from a position of authority. However, if you’d rather not ask the principal or feel they don’t know you well enough, asking the head of your department is a great alternative.

d. Recent Grad Applying for a Teaching Job:

If you specifically studied to become a teacher in college, then you will have already taught some courses under the guidance of a professor or two. One of these professors is by far the best candidate to ask to write your recommendation.

e. Applying to a Job with Little or No Work Experience:

Ask a friend or extended family member to write a character reference for you. A reference from a direct family member will be seen as “too close to home” and will not be taken seriously by any potential employer.

f. Applying to a Job with Experience:

The ideal writer would be someone who has directly supervised your work such as a manager. In cases where asking your manager is not ideal, a colleague who you have worked with closely is also acceptable.

If you’re still not sure who to ask, use the following formula: pick the person in the highest possible position with whom you have the strongest relationship.

How Should I Ask? (6 Expert Tips for Proper Etiquette)

In many cases, how you ask for a letter of recommendation can be the difference between a person saying yes or no. These six tips for proper etiquette will help you ask in a way that makes it hard to decline.

#1. Ask in Person:

Whenever possible, always ask for a recommendation in person. The person you ask will appreciate that you took the time to make a personal, face-to-face appeal.

#2. Explain Your Situation:

Don’t jump straight into asking for a reference. Start by explaining exactly what you are applying for so that they understand why you are asking in the first place.

#3. Use Polite Language:

Use indirect turns of phrase to ensure your tone is as polite as possible when asking someone for a recommendation, even if you know the person very well.

Don’t say: “Hey can you write me a recommendation letter?

Do Say: “I was wondering if it might at all be possible for you to write me a letter of recommendation.

In almost all cases, politeness is the most important factor in convincing someone to accept your request.

This is by far the most important tip, so pay extra attention to it. In almost all cases, politeness is the most important factor in convincing someone to accept your request.

#4. Give Them an Excuse to Say No:

In case they are unwilling or unable to write your letter, always follow up your request with a statement that allows them to easily decline. Don’t put them in an awkward position where they have to directly refuse.

Example: “If you’re too busy with other tasks to write it, I perfectly understand and please don’t hesitate to decline.

#5. Emphasize Why You’re Asking Them:

Explain why you chose to ask for a recommendation from them. Many times this will help convince them to accept your request even if they are busy.

Example:I understand that you might not have time, but since you have taught me for 2 years and are familiar with my work, I believe that no one is more qualified to write my recommendation than you.”

#6. Express Your Gratitude:

Tell them how appreciative you would be if they would take the time to write your letter. However, don’t give them the impression that you expect them to accept (as outlined in tip 4).

Example: I would really appreciate it if you were able to write a letter of recommendation for me, if you are unable to do so, however, I completely understand and please don’t worry about it.”

In the end, as long as you ask with a polite and sincere attitude, most people will be more than happy to write a recommendation for you.

How to Ask via Email (with Template)

If you are in a situation where you can’t ask for a recommendation in person, write a request via email. Simply follow the same guidelines outlined in the section above and your request will be golden.

If you’re still unsure of yourself however, we’ve created a professional template for writing a letter of recommendation email request below. Simply copy and paste the template and then fill in your own details.

Subject Line: Request for Letter of Recommendation

Dear [Title + Name of Person You are Asking]

First of all thank you for taking the time to read this email and I hope that this request does not cause you any inconvenience.

I am applying for [university program/job position] at [target school/company] and was wondering if it would at all be possible for you to write a letter of recommendation for me.

As my [relation with requestee], I sincerely feel that no one else is more suited to writing me a recommendation and I would truly appreciate any kind words you might be willing to say on my behalf.

That being said, I know that you are extremely busy and if you are unable to find the time to write a letter I would completely understand.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

What Information Should I Provide to the Person Writing My Letter?

Once your writer has accepted your request, you need to provide them with as much useful information as possible. This will not only make things more convenient for your writer, but also ensure that they write you the best recommendation possible.

Here’s a list of some of the info you should provide:

  • Your resume & cover letter
  • Your personal statement (if you’re a student)
  • The name of your target university or company
  • A link to the description of your target job or program
  • Personal strengths or characteristics you’d like them to focus on
  • Specific achievements you’d like them to mention

9. When and How to Reject a Request for a Recommendation Letter

When:

Of course, there are always times when you may be exceptionally busy and finding the time to write a letter can be difficult. In these situations accepting or rejecting a letter is completely up to you.

There are two situations in which you definitely should reject a request for a reference letter.

Other than that, there are two situations in which you definitely should reject a request for a reference letter.

#1. You don’t know enough about the applicant to write them a strong recommendation.

Even if you are aware that an applicant has exceptional abilities and personal qualities, you may not be familiar enough with the specifics of their accomplishments to write a proper letter.

#2. You know a lot about the applicant but can’t think of enough positive things to say.

It sounds harsh but there are times when an applicant’s performance at your company or school has simply not been ideal. If you’re struggling to come up with a way to portray them in a positive light, it’s better to decline the request and let someone who is more familiar with their strengths write their recommendation.

How:

Of course, if you want to just flat out reject a request, that is completely acceptable. However, if you’d like to soften the blow a bit, coming up with an excuse is remarkably easy.

Simply apologize to the student and tell them that you are too busy, and feel as though you lack the time required to write them the letter they deserve.

Simply apologize to the student and tell them that you are too busy, and feel as though you lack the time required to write them the letter they deserve.

Now that you know everything there is to know about recommendation letters, feel free to check out our professional templates and samples. Our experts have created a comprehensive library of examples for both studentsand employment.

If you need more inspiration for writing your letter, we also have extensive guides for writing cover letters, business letters, and even letters of resignation.

Written by Matthew Kerr

Matthew Kerr is a career adviser at Resume Genius, where he reinvigorates client's careers and saves resumes from the trash heap. His career expertise has been quoted on countless publications across the web, including... more

Overview Letters of Recommendation are one of the most important elements of any scholarship application as they can provide important.

Recommendation Request Letter

letter to request recommendation

No groveling necessary.

Asking someone to write you a letter of recommendation can feel almost as daunting as asking that special someone out to a movie. You're putting yourself out there, just hoping they like you back enough to say yes! Luckily, most of your teachers are well accustomed to writing letters of recommendation for students and are glad to support you in your academic goals.

Plus, who wouldn't want to recommend you for college? You're great.

To ensure your request goes as smoothly as possible, you should be thoughtful about who and how you ask. This guide will go over the steps on how to request a recommendation letter for your college applications successfully (though this guide works equally well for applications for graduate school and jobs). First, let's briefly go over what you need to know before making your request.

 

What You Should Know Before Requesting a Recommendation Letter

Before you pop the question, make sure you thoroughly understand the purpose of recommendation letters in your college applications. Along with your college essay, they should help personalize your application and tell a story about who you are as a student and person.

While other parts of your application display your grades, activities, and other accomplishments, letters of recommendation can go beyond the resume and help you come to life in the eyes of admissions officers. Recommendation letters can speak to your academic potential, character traits, and personality, as well as about how you've connected with others in the school community over the past few years. 

Because reference letters have this important function of revealing aspects of your personality and giving insight into your character, you should choose someone who knows you well and can give specific anecdotes about you. You might also have learned through word of mouth which teachers write the strongest letters. Sometimes seasoned faculty members have written a lot of letters over the years, and may have established solid reputations with admissions officers at certain colleges.

Some colleges require one teacher recommendation, while others ask for two. Most schools also require a letter of rec from your counselor. This guide will discuss how you can request strong recommendations from both your teachers and your school counselor. First and foremost, make sure to ask well in advance of your deadlines.

 


Want to build the best possible college application, with the strongest recommendations?

We can help. PrepScholar Admissions is the world's best admissions consulting service. We combine world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies. We've overseen thousands of students get into their top choice schools, from state colleges to the Ivy League.

We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit. We want to get you admitted to your dream schools.

Learn more about PrepScholar Admissions to maximize your chance of getting in.

Don't make your teacher feel like a hamster racing on the wheel of time.

 

 

When Should You Ask for a Letter of Recommendation?

The first step in requesting a letter of recommendation involves timing. Even for seasoned teachers and counselors, each individual letter takes time and thought to do well. I recommend asking your recommenders at least a month before your application deadlines. In some cases, even earlier is better.

Some teachers put a cap on how many requests they take. If they have a first come, first served policy, then you should ask even earlier than a month before your deadlines so you don't miss out. A lot of teachers get inundated by the end of the semester, when they might be already busy getting exams scored and grades completed, not to mention spending time with friends and family over winter vacation. Because of this, it's a good idea to ask your recommenders early in the semester, like in September.

Junior year teachers are often a good choice, because they had you recently and for a full year (whereas your senior year teachers might not know you that well yet). It can also be a good idea to ask your junior year teachers at the end of junior year, when you're fresh in their mind from being a student in their class all year (also a good idea if you have early decision deadlines). It gives them an entire summer to work on your letter. Just make sure to politely remind them a few weeks before your deadlines, if they haven't submitted your rec letter by then.

Once you've figured out who you're asking and when, how can you frame your request in a positive way? First, I'll talk about how to ask a teacher and then how to ask your counselor, as the process and your relationships with these people is probably a little different.

 

 

Make your request in person, so you don't end up with a letter like this.

 

 

How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation from a Teacher

How are you going to approach your request? What should you say? What information do you need to give your teacher? As long as you've prepared yourself in these three aspects, you're all set to make your request. Let's break each down one at a time.

 

How to Make Your Request

In person. I highly recommend asking for your recommendation face to face. Depending on your teacher's schedule and school culture, it may be appropriate to email your teacher to set up an appointment or meeting. Asking for a letter of recommendation solely over email could be interpreted as impersonal, distant, and less mature, an impression you don't want to make in the mind of a recommender.

I also wouldn't recommend asking during class time, but instead find time during a free period, after school, or whenever the teacher has free time to meet. The request may be short, but you still want to create space in case your teacher wants to further discuss your plans. 

 

What to Say

While it can feel scary and vulnerable to ask a teacher for this favor, remember that teachers, especially ones that have juniors and seniors, expect this. In fact, it's part of their job description. Likely all of these teachers write letters of recommendation for students every year and want to help you succeed and continue on in your education. It may also help you to remember that a lot of teachers know what it's like to be on the other side of this process, as they usually undergo observations and evaluations every year. 

The best way to calm your nerves and ensure the conversation goes smoothly is to prepare what you'll say. I recommend phrasing your request simply and directly, without a lot of "ums," "likes," or "I forgot what I was about to say, so let's take a raincheck—how about next Thursday?" Something like this could work:

"I really enjoyed your class. I've learned a lot from you and feel like you've gotten to know me well. I'm apply to College X for next year and would be really flattered if you could write me a strong letter of recommendation for my application(s)." 

Note the phrasing of a strong recommendation. You want to make sure your teacher can write you a strong and compelling letter, not a generic one. If, worst case scenario, your teacher declines or seems hesitant, simply thank them and ask somebody else. You wouldn't want a weak letter that wouldn't help, or could even hurt, your application. You want to find a recommender who will agree to write a letter for you without reservation.

If you've asked someone who knows you well and agrees to provide you with a letter of rec, then it's a good idea to share some further information with him/her. In a lot of schools, they call this a "brag sheet."

 

The "brag sheet" isn't really about bragging, not even backdoor brags. 

 

Information to Give Your Teacher(s)

First off, your teachers need to know the logistics. When are your college deadlines? How do they submit the letter of rec? In most cases, your early decision deadlines will be in October and your regular decision deadlines will be in early January. Typically, writers upload their recommendations through the Common Application or, if your school uses it, through Naviance. 

Beyond the requirements, I strongly advise providing your teacher with your brag sheet, or your reflections on who you are and what you value. Usually the guidance office distributes these to juniors and seniors, inviting students and parents to comment on it. The more detailed and thoughtful you are about your values, goals, and accomplishments, the more useful your brag sheet will be to the writer. While you might not be used to or all that comfortable writing about yourself, you should take the time to reflect deeply about what you care about and what experiences have been especially meaningful in your life.

This will help your teacher add further dimension to your recommendation, as well as help differentiate you from other students they're writing about. In a perfect world your recommenders are bursting with fun and poignant anecdotes to share about you in their class, but in reality most teachers could use your help to complement what they plan to say.

I would recommend going into your request ready with your completed brag sheet. If the teacher agrees, then you can pass it over. Be ready to have a discussion on it if the teacher wants to hear your thoughts.  

In addition to giving revealing insights about your character and interaction with other students, your teachers are the best authorities on your academic performance and potential. Your counselor, on the other hand, can speak more to your role in the school community and growth over your years in high school. Because your relationship with your counselor is different from that with your teachers, you may approach your recommendation request differently.

 

 

How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation from your School Counselor 

Almost all colleges that require recommendations want one from your school counselor. This recommendation is usually called the "secondary school report." While you can choose which teachers to ask for reference letters, you probably don't have a decision to make when it comes to the counselor letter of rec. Lots of students have the same counselor throughout their four years of high school.

You also probably don't  have to ask the same way you do with your teachers, as your counselor expects to write recommendation letters for all students on his or her caseload who are applying to college. With this recommendation, it's less about the request and more about how you can help your counselor write the strongest reference letter possible.

In some high schools, especially big ones, students don't always get to know their counselors very well. If that's the case for you, then your brag sheet, as well as face to face meetings, is especially important for sharing who you are and what your goals are. If you have a passion for environmental biology, tell your counselor all about it. If you can't wait to join your college's newspaper and report on important events around the community, share that. The more your counselor knows about you and what sparks your interest, the more life they can breathe into your recommendation letter.

Most counselors will schedule at least two college meetings with the students on their caseload, one in the spring of junior year to discuss college planning and one in the fall to talk about how your applications are going. If you're applying early action or early decision, you should let your counselor know in the spring of junior year, or at least at the very beginning of senior year. 

The best recommendation letters don't just use vague descriptions that could apply to anyone. They prove their assertions by relating specific stories. If you haven't had a ton of interactions with your counselor, it's especially important to include significant experiences and challenges on your brag sheet, as well as to get to know your counselor in meetings. For most schools, you can schedule a meeting with your counselor, so don't feel like you have to wait for him or her to call you down to the office. 

Reference letters for college are a big part of a counselor's job, and they can get especially busy with them around deadlines. Ask your counselor early and meet with him or her so you can make a strong impression, show how important your applications are to you, and jumpstart their letter writing. The more specific you are and the more you share with your counselor, the stronger and more colorful his/her recommendation letter will be. 

Just like with your teachers, it's up to you to tell your counselor when your deadlines are and any special requirements they need to complete. After you've spoken to your recommendations and obtained their support, what are the next steps?

 

 

Next Steps After Your Recommendation Request

It's always a good idea to follow up with your recommenders a week or two before your deadlines with a polite reminder. In this reminder, you could thank them again for providing you with a letter of rec, express your excitement about your future plans, and invite them to contact you if they need any more information from you. If you word it this way, then it won't feel like you're asking why they haven't uploaded their letter yet (unless they have, in which case, thank them again!).

Some teachers will let you see your letter before submitting it and invite your revisions or feedback. This is totally up to the recommender, and not actually common in admissions procedures (usually letters are expected to be confidential). If your teacher doesn't offer to show it to you, I wouldn't advise pressuring her to. This could indicate that you don't trust her to write a strong letter—and if that's the case, you should ask someone else, anyway!

Most letters will be submitted online, but in the rare case that your teacher wants to mail it, you should provide her with a pre-addressed, pre-stamped envelope. After all's written and submitted, write your teachers and counselor a thank you note. Once the decisions start rolling in, let them know where you got in!

If you take just a few points from this article, these are the most important ones to remember.


Want to build the best possible college application, with the strongest recommendations?

We can help. PrepScholar Admissions is the world's best admissions consulting service. We combine world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies. We've overseen thousands of students get into their top choice schools, from state colleges to the Ivy League.

We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit. We want to get you admitted to your dream schools.

Learn more about PrepScholar Admissions to maximize your chance of getting in.

 

 

Key Takeaways for Recommendation Requests

  • Ask a teacher (or two) who knows you well and in whose class you excelled. The better relationship you have with your recommender, the more insightful your recommendation letter will be. It helps if the teacher is known to be a strong writer, too!
  • Request your reference letters in person. This adds a personal touch and shows respect.
  • In addition to telling your recommenders your deadlines and important logistics, give them thoughtful reflections on your values, goals, and accomplishments on your brag sheet. Take time with this, as it could be a huge aid as your recommenders write your letter.
  • Thank them for helping you apply to college, and let them know where you end up!

 

Perhaps the most important takeaway is that letters of recommendation are important, as are the connections you have with your teachers and counselor in high school. Approach this part of your application with a plan, and express your appreciation of your recommenders' role in helping you get into college. All this commitment and goal-setting is definitely the kind of thing you could put on a brag sheet.

 

What's Next?

In order to add recommenders to the Common Application, first you have to respond to the FERPA waiver. Read all about what it means and how it affects your right to access your letters of recommendation.

College admissions get more and more competitive every year, so you want to present yourself with the best application you can. Read about how to build a versatile college application here.

Did you know that a couple schools ask for recommendations from peers, and some students send them along as supplements? Read the complete guide to peer recommendations here.

 

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

 

WATCH THE VIDEO ON THEME: How to Ask for Letters Of Recommendation! - The Intern Queen

Potential employers, scholarship and grant selection committees, and graduate school admissions offices depend heavily on recommendation letters to gain.

letter to request recommendation
Written by Murg
Write a comment