Asking for Letters of Recommendation


One of the most daunting aspects of applying for scholarship can be the one part you don’t have to write yourself: the letter of recommendation. Although someone else is doing the work on this, there are still important steps you need to take to ensure that you have the best letter possible.

Asking For Letters of Recommendation

Ask these People:

·         Faculty/Community members/ employers who know you well and who you are confident will say nice things about you

·         People who you are sure fulfill the criteria of the type of recommender the committee is looking for. (If they say someone in your major, it should be someone in your major, if they say someone who is familiar with your research capabilities, then it should be someone who is familiar with your research capabilities…)

Do Not Ask these People:

·         Important people just because they are important people. Don’t ask the chancellor just because he is the chancellor. If he doesn’t know you, he can’t write a good letter.

·         People who don’t know you that well.

How to Approach Potential Recommenders

·         Make an appointment – don’t ambush them.

·         Ask them if they feel like they know you well enough to write you a *good* letter of recommendation. You may have to gauge if they are being honest. Only go with enthusiastic recommenders.

·         Take your resume to the appointment. This will help your recommender write the best letter he or she can write

·         Take a description of the scholarship or program to the appointment.

·         Ask them for advice on your application. You should be working with recommenders who are in the field of the scholarship or graduate school to which you are applying. This will not only help you make sure that this is the appropriate recommender, but it will also give you another set of eyes on your application. This is never a bad thing. Also, it might help for your recommender to mention some of the things you talk about in your appliction (research, ideas, etc).

Organizing the logistics of application

·         If the instructor is to complete the application online, explain this. Make sure that she knows where she will be able to fill out the application. Will the scholarship automatically email a form, or will you have to? Make sure you know this.

·         If the letter of recommendation is to be sent through the mail, you need to give your professor all of the material that he or she will need. Your professor is busy. Don’t ask him to print off the form and address the envelope. Print off the form and address and stamp the envelope yourself. Read over any forms to make sure you don’t have to fill out any sections. Many forms will require you to do this.

Keep in Mind…

·         Your timeline. Always allow 3-4 weeks between when you ask your recommender and when you need to the application

·         It is up to you to make sure your recommender gets the letter in. Following up about a week before the deadline is always a good idea.

·         Courtesy goes a long way. Never assume the potential recommender will write you a letter – always say please (never demand). Always follow up with a thank you note. You never know when you will have to ask the recommender to write you a note again.

If you applying for a scholarship, please contact Ms. Whiteside ( for an additional information sheet for you to give to your recommender.


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