Ten Basic Rules for Asking for Letters of Recommendation

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1.       Ask early (six weeks to two months)

2.       Organize your material – know what you are applying for, what you need, and what the criteria for the application are.

3.       Provide your recommender with any applicable forms, envelopes, addresses, stamps, instructions. Your recommender shouldn’t have to do any work for you beyond writing the actual letter and sticking it in the mail.

4.       Ask your recommenders to look at the personal statement you’ve written for your application. This is helpful for you and this is helpful to your recommender.

5.       Always waive the right to see the letter. Scholarship committees and schools do not take seriously letters that you haven’t waived the right to see.

6.       Always choose a recommender who knows you well and who you are confident will represent you in a good light. This is why it is important to form relationships with teachers beyond the classroom early in your academic career.

7.       Choose who you ask to write you a letter based on the opportunity. If it is for an academic scholarship, you should ask people who can comment on your academic ability (your professors). If it is for a scholarship that involves leadership and service, you should ask someone who can comment on these aspects. For graduate school, the rule of thumb is to ask someone who has a degree in the field that you are going into.

8.       Pick your recommenders strategically. Review what information you are using for your application and use this to determine what other items you need filled in.

9.       Set reminders on your own calendar for the dates on which you should follow up with your recommenders. Even though your recommender is responsible for getting his or her letter in on time, you are responsible for making sure he or she does it – you are the person on the line here!

10.   Remember you manners – thank you notes are important. You never know when you’ll need your recommenders to write you another letter.

For more help, check out: Letters

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