Student Guide to Letters of Recommendation

Who to Ask

Check the Application - What information is expected from your letters? How many letters are required? Are they to be academic recommendations or character reference recommendations?

Balance the Letters - Letters of recommendation should supplement information already in your application. List your recommenders and what perspective they will have; feel free to ask them to discuss certain aspects. Make sure that the letters combine to present a balanced picture of you.

Focus on Quality - Scholarship review committees are not impressed by name dropping. Choose someone who can give an in-depth description of you rather than someone with a high title who can only mention your achievements superficially.

How to Ask

Be Polite - Make sure to give your recommenders plenty of advance notice; 2-3 weeks in advance should be the minimum. Don't ask them abruptly. Make a formal request in an email or meet them in their office.

Be Informative - Provide your recommenders with any information that would improve the letters. Give them information about the scholarship, your qualifications, etc. Some important items to include:

  • Resumé or Curriculum Vitae
  • Unofficial copy of transcript
  • Papers or assignments from previous class(es)
  • Any applicable sections of your application-this might include a personal statement, essay or project proposal.

Be Helpful - Make resources available to your recommenders. Let them know what is expected of their letter in both content and format. Facilitate the submission process by explaining it fully and, if applicable, providing a stamped, addressed envelope for them. The National Scholarships, Fellowships, & Programs has letter of recommendation handouts available both in online. Make the letter writing process as easy and effective as possible.

Follow-up - A week or so before the deadline, check with your recommenders. Make sure they have all the information necessary and that all their questions have been answered. Express your gratitude for their time. After the letter has been submitted, send them a more formal thank you note. They will be that much more willing to write letters in the future.