Practical and Useful Tips on How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation


So, you have decided to apply for a prestigious university or college. You have followed numerous requirements and provided a bunch of the documents needed. Now it is time to add one more and get all the papers needed. This final document is a letter of recommendation from someone who knows you pretty well. It is an important admission requirement as the committee members have to be sure that you are a suitable applicant. Thus, you have to know how to ask for a letter of recommendation from a reputable person. There is no smarter way to get to know about your abilities and personality than to acquire this information from a reference.

The good news is that you do not have to work on the letters of recommendation yourself. Still, what you need to do is to request for this letter. We would like to draw your attention to the fact that it is time-consuming to get the letters you need. We advise you to spare at least thirty days before you have to submit your set of documents for admission. So, the principle is: ‘the sooner you ask the better.’ Actually, summer is the best season for such requests as the teachers have sufficient time to work on them in a thoughtful manner. It is always advisable to request for help from the advisors who are well acquainted with you. You should realize that all of the teachers get numerous requests from the students. If you want to have an exclusive approach, you need to contact the teachers when they are not overloaded. If they are not in a hurry, they will be able to devote more time and attention to the letter you need.

 Who Can You Address for Letters of Recommendation?

It is a common practice to provide letters of recommendation for college from counselors and teachers of your high school. Still, the requirements for such letters differ among the colleges. One of the best tips from a reputable letter of recommendation service is to approach those instructors who are in good terms with you. It is great if the instructor knows you personally and can give feedback not only on your attitude to studies but also on your personal features. It is also advisable to appeal to the teachers who have conducted classes recently. Thus, they can give the evaluation of the characteristics students have now as they can change over time. Experts on college admissions claim that the efficiency of the college selection process relies on the most recent insights. The admission officers can get the full picture of the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses if the recommendations are provided by the people who know them in various capacities. For instance, if you are brilliant at languages and you need two or three letters of recommendation for your admission, it is wrong to get reference only from the language teachers. In this case, the admission officers will not perceive you as a personality capable of something else than mastering languages.


Can a teacher refuse to write a letter of recommendation for a student?

 It is a common situation when a teacher turns down your request for support. In most cases, you will get a positive answer, but teachers can politely say ‘No!’ You have to be ready for both a decline and an acceptance of your request.

Reasons for Saying ‘No!’

  1. A busy teacher realizes that he or she cannot give you effective help. Being pressed for time, he or she will not be able to produce high-quality writing and meet your deadline for submitting the documents. You are aware that the teachers have a lot of responsibilities and personal lives as well. So, if the teacher says that he or she cannot help you with a recommendation letter, it is not his or her way to offend you. It just means that he or she has no time to do that now.
  2. Some teachers may tell you that your performance in class does not make it comfortable for him or her to recommend you. In other cases, the teachers just do not know you well enough to evaluate your strengths.

Whatever the reason, you should not get angry or disappointed. Instead, you have to respond politely and say that you are grateful for the teacher’s time. Never take the teachers’ responses personally. You can definitely find another person who will assist you!

Write an Impressive Resume or Brag Sheet

If you contact some teachers and ask them to give a recommendation letter for you, you can facilitate their work by giving them your resume with all details. Do not forget to mention all your personal strengths and focus on your key accomplishments. If the teachers get your transcripts and resume, it is much easier for them to give an evaluation of your personality.

You may be a high school student without any major accomplishments to mention in the resume. In that case, you can write a so-called brag sheet to enumerate all your most impressive features and qualifications. What should be included?

  • Major academic achievements, best scores, test results, and overall GPA results
  • The grades you got for the courses conducted by the professor or instructor you want to write a letter
  • List of your major strengths and specific examples from your classes that show how the teacher could see it in class
  • Experience
  • Volunteering
  • Participation in extracurricular activities
  • Your reflection over the goals for the position or program

It is natural to feel a bit embarrassed or awkward writing about your best qualities and accomplishments. Still, you have to realize that you do that not to boast but to let the committee get acquainted with you and learn about your victories.

Explain to the Teacher Why You Need a Recommendation

Learning how to ask for a letter of recommendation, do not forget to talk to every teacher in-person before you send a formal request. Thus, you demonstrate that you really need help and you are sure that the teacher is eager to lend you a helping help and work on a recommendation letter for you. In the course of a conversation, you will update the teachers about recent success stories an accomplishments so that it could be easier for them to work on a recommendation. Besides, they should be aware of the relevant context of a letter, requirements for a recommendation, and the reason why you need it. After the teachers confirm that they will write the letters for you, you have to send personal formal requests either via a printed letter or an email to each of them with the attached resume. Thus, they will refresh their memory about your accomplishments and produce detailed personalized letters of recommendation.


 What You Do after a Recommendation Letter Request

We advise you to send a follow-up message about two weeks after you have sent your formal request for a letter. It will be a polite reminder with your words of gratitude and your excitement about your prospects. You can also mention that you could provide any further details if there is a need. Thus, this message will sound not as a means of rushing the teachers but as an offer to assist if needed. If they have already sent you the letter you asked for, you have to send a thank-you letter. You can also accompany it with your feedback, if the teacher does not keep it confidential.