When planning to study for an undergraduate or graduate degree, students are required to submit a letter of recommendation along with their application, their Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test result, personal statement, and other relevant documents.

But most students struggle to understand the correct procedure to secure solid recommendation letters.

In this definitive guide, we will teach you how to approach the right people and get stellar recommendations that will pave the way to get into your desired institution!

What is a Letter of Recommendation?

A letter of recommendation is a requirement for college and university admission that endorses your skills, experience, achievements, and qualities, which is sent along with your application.

The document is written by an experienced person who knows or has worked with you, such as your teacher, employer, etc. Some colleges and universities even require more than one recommendation letter.

You can refer to the university or college websites to discover the ideal format and structure, specific information to include, whether to submit a handwritten letter or an email, submission date, etc., to keep you well-prepared to request the recommendation letter from your reference correctly.

Who Should You Approach for a Recommendation Letter?

The most appropriate people to approach are your teachers, guidance counselors, previous employers, or other relevant people.

The recommendation letter aims to present a more personal account of your character and abilities by someone other than you to support your application and strengthen your reasons to be a better fit than other candidates for the institution.

However, some universities and colleges can be more specific when accepting the letter of recommendation. For a particular course like an English program, the admission board might ask you to present the recommendation letter from your English teachers.

How Can You Ask for a Letter of Recommendation for College?

Now comes the most crucial part: how you can request a recommendation letter for your dream college! Follow these steps below for a thorough understanding to appropriately approach your references and secure admission in your desired undergraduate or graduate program.

Create a List of Possible References

Firstly, you must compile a list of the possible references that you think would give you a good and solid recommendation letter.

Make Sure to Ask Ahead of Time

It is strongly advisable to approach your references well in advance. As nobody likes or will be able to write in such a short period.

A last-minute pitch is usually rejected as people have prior commitments or other students to write recommendation letters for. Even if somebody is kind enough to accept your last-minute request, it will put them under pressure to complete it before the deadline. Thus, it won’t be as good as you might have anticipated.

Don’t forget to ask for your references at least one or two months before the application deadline.

Always Ask in Person First

Asking for the recommendation in person makes a better impression on your references than sending an email or call. It allows you to discuss your prospect of joining the college with them in detail. They can even ask you any follow-up questions during the discussion that can be useful while writing the recommendation.

So first, inform your reference about your request and set a date, time, and venue accordingly. If a physical meeting would not be convenient, try doing it on a video call or phone call in that scenario.

Practice What and How to Communicate

Naturally, it would be awkward for you to ask for a favor from anyone, but you should know that most teachers and mentors will be happy to write a recommendation letter for you unless it is a last-minute request.

So while pondering about your dream business school inside of your Harvard University or Columbia University accommodation, practice well in advance what you need to say and, more importantly, how to communicate your request politely and confidently.

Provide Your Recommender with Necessary Information

If the person agrees to write, you should provide them with all relevant and crucial information to create a comprehensive and good recommendation letter. Present them with:

  • Your selected university/ college and course details: personal statement, application, etc.
  • A detailed rationale for applying to the institution
  • Your relationship with your reference and how you came to work together, stating relevant examples and anecdotes
  • Relevant work experience, updated resume, high school or undergraduate college transcripts, etc.
  • Societies and hobby clubs you were a part of, interests & hobbies, and other relevant information
  • A list of your qualities and skills you want them to highlight
  • Submission instructions and deadline

Take a Follow-Up

Don’t forget to take up a follow-up from your references a week before the application deadline. It helps to ensure that they have submitted the letter or remind them again about it. Make sure to thank them and ask if they need any further assistance from your end.

Send a Final Thank You Note!

After successfully submitting the recommendation letter, send your recommenders a thank you note and update them about your application status. It is a friendly yet professional gesture that will further strengthen your bond with your references.