How to ask for a letter of recommendation

Approach professors early and in person when asking for a letter of recommendation.

Whether you’re applying to college for the first time, making your way into graduate school or entering the working world, it’s inevitable that at some point you’ll need to ask for a letter of recommendation. Like many things in life, there’s a right and wrong way to approach the situation. If you want a strong letter of recommendation, follow these steps:

1. Ask early

Writing a quality letter of recommendation takes a great deal of time, and your professor or employer is likely very busy. As a measure of respect, and to ensure that you come away with a thoughtful letter, ask your a few months before your deadline. Then, send a helpful reminder a few weeks before the letter is due, and ask if they need you to provide any additional information.

2. Ask in person

Rather than shooting off a quick email or text or leaving a voicemail, ask for a letter of recommendation in person. This will give you an opportunity to convey how important the letter is to you and demonstrate how much you appreciate your instructor taking time out of his or her busy schedule to write it. You will also be able to gage their reaction so you can consider asking someone else if they seemed less than enthused.

3. Provide important information

For a strong letter of recommendation, provide the writer with all necessary materials. Give them updated information about your academic and work history, and let them know what your future plans and goals are. Offer to answer any further questions they may have, and make sure they know specifically what the letter is for so they can tailor their writing accordingly.

4. Say thank you

After your letter of recommendation has been sent, don’t forget to write a thoughtful thank you note! Remember: These letters are written on a volunteer basis – sending a thank you note is the least you can do.

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