How to Get a Professional Letter of Recommendation for College

Getting a letter of recommendation for college is part of a quality application. Here’s the proper etiquette when asking for a recommendation.

In 2019, almost 20 million students attended college in the fall. As you can imagine, that’s a lot of competition if you’re planning on attending a University, especially if you plan on going to a prestigious one.

Many institutions ask for letters of recommendation for college admission, so you need to ensure you have these secured ahead of time to avoid scrambling to procure them. However, you can’t simply approach people and ask them for these letters.

Here are the proper steps you need to take when asking for a professional letter of recommendation for college.

Do It as Early as Possible

No matter who you choose, they’re probably very busy with their own academic and/or personal schedules. If you ask them to write you a letter of recommendation just 1 week before your applications are due, chances are, they’ll refuse since they won’t have enough time to reflect and prepare an adequate letter.

If possible, ask at least a month in advance. This will give both you and the person plenty of time; for you, to either ask someone else in case of refusal or to follow up with it if takes a while. And for them, to dig deep and analyze their time spent with you.

Choose the Right Person

Don’t just ask any professor or tutor to write you a letter of recommendation. For example, if you don’t get along with a tutor very well or have never spoken to a professor, then it may not be a wise choice to ask either of these professionals. This is because even if they do their best to write positively about you, at least a little bit of insincerity will come across in their writing.

You’ll want to choose professionals who you’re very close with and/or interact with a lot. They should be people who have seen your potential and believe that you can achieve great things at the University.

The people you ask don’t necessarily have to be tutors or professors. They can also be your employer, director of a group you volunteer for, the leader of your church, or the coach for your sports team. Choose individuals who have some sort of authority in the community, as this will give credibility to the words they write.

Give Them as Much Information as Possible

You might think that just because these professionals have written letters of recommendation before, they know what you need on yours. But the fact is, every letter will have various requirements, which can make one very different from another.

So don’t just ask someone to write you a letter of recommendation without telling them all the important W’s: who, what, when, where, why.

For example, if you need a letter for a scholarship application, you need to specify the letter is for that and not a college application. Let them know which foundation it is, how many applicants and/or recipients there are, and what they’re looking for in their potential recipients.

In addition, give them some general details about yourself. While you may have a close relationship, there might be some information about you they may not recall when writing the letter. Some helpful reminders of your strong points can really improve the quality of their letters.

The more detail you can provide, the better. Sometimes, recommenders can get stuck and not know exactly what they need to write about. If they have some guidelines from you, then it’ll be much easier and smoother to construct a strong letter.

If the letter needs to be mailed in by hand, provide your recommenders with pre-addressed envelopes with the appropriate stamps on them. That way, all they need to do is put the letter into the envelope and mail it when they’re done.

Check in at Least One Week Before the Deadline

Recommenders are humans too, even if they seem like superhuman teachers and leaders. Yes, they may have promised you to write a letter of recommendation, but it’ll be entirely possible that it just might slip their minds.

If it’s been radio-silent from them, you’ll want to check in at least one week before the deadline. That way, if they’ve forgotten to make any progress on the letter, this can be a gentle reminder. This can also be an opportunity for you to provide them with any additional information they may need.

Are you working on a personal statement too? Then this can be a good time for you to have the recommender check it as well. That way, you can get some valuable feedback that’ll strengthen your application.

Thank the Recommenders for Their Time

These people have helped you out tremendously. They’ve most likely paved the way for a better future, and without them, it wouldn’t have been possible.

Make sure you let them know just how grateful you are that they took some time out of their busy schedules to write these letters of recommendation. Write them a thank-you letter, preferably a handwritten one so they know you took the time to think of what to write to them.

Don’t just stop here either. If you’re successful in your endeavors, send another thank-you letter to them to let them know how much they’ve helped you. Not only will they be glad they’ve played a hand in your accomplishment, but they’ll also be more likely to write you another letter of recommendation in the future, should you need one.

Get a Great Letter of Recommendation for College by Following Our Tips

Now you know how to ask someone for a letter of recommendation for college.

Remember to start early and to always respect people’s boundaries. If someone says they don’t feel comfortable providing you with a letter of recommendation, then move on and don’t pester nor question why they won’t. And always remember to thank recommenders for their time, as the service they’ve provided is invaluable!

Do you need more advice about university? Then browse our Education section now to better prepare yourself for the future.


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How to Get a Professional Letter of Recommendation for College

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