How to request a Letter of Recommendation

How to request a Letter of Recommendation

As a student, what’s the best way to ask for a letter of recommendation? In this article, we have summarized the specific steps and suggestions for applying for letters of recommendation.

The importance of letter of recommendation

While the recommendation letter constitutes just one component among various materials in a university application, it frequently garners significant emphasis from college admissions officers. Furthermore, numerous colleges and universities mandate the submission of at least one recommendation letter, with some even stipulating the necessity of two to four letters.

Admissions officers frequently observe that while students’ academic grades and extracurricular involvements may often appear similar, the distinctive student qualities illuminated in teachers’ letters of recommendation tend to provide a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding. These letters of recommendation offer a unique lens through which admissions officers can perceive students objectively and comprehensively.

Write a good email subject header

After you have identified a suitable candidate, not every professor you reach out to will respond or agree to write your letter of recommendation. Crafting an appropriate email is crucial (although meeting them in person may be the most effective approach). The initial step in composing an email is to create a compelling subject header. A strong subject header instantly informs the recipient of the purpose of your email and indicates how they should proceed. Conversely, a weak subject header might result in the recipient disregarding or deleting the email outright. Here are some examples of more fitting email subjects:

  • Request For a Letter of Recommendation for College Application
  • Kindly Requesting Your Letter of Recommendation (Scholarship Application)
  • Recommendation Letter Request for Yale Application
  • Seeking Your Support: Recommendation Letter Inquiry

Let your recommender know why you chose them

When selecting recommenders, preference is usually given to those who are familiar with your background, experience and academic abilities. For example, students majoring in vocal performance can look for a choir teacher, and students planning to study computer science can ask their mathematics professor.

In the email, begin by clarifying to the professor the reason for selecting them to write the recommendation letter. You can explain why you believe they are especially qualified to assess your capabilities in a specific area, such as excelling in a particular course or playing a pivotal role in a specific project. Providing this context will help the professor understand your circumstances and facilitate the creation of a tailored letter of recommendation.

it should be noted that some universities have special requirements for recommendation letters and require teachers in specific disciplines to write letter of recommendation. For example, the University of Chicago requires students to submit two letters of recommendation from teachers in “academic subjects,” including: “Mathematics, social studies, history, science, English or literature, foreign language, or courses involving substantial reading, writing, or class discussion.” Therefore, it is best to first understand the requirements for recommendation letters when applying to universities, and then start preparing to contact your chosen recommenders.

Plan in advance and inform your professor of the timeline

When requesting for letter of recommendation, notify professors at least one month in advance to allow them enough time to write recommendation letters for you. It’s not recommended to apply too early, because you may not know how many schools you are applying or what major. Without this key information, it will be difficult for recommenders to respond and decide on such requests.

Once you know which college/major you are applying to, immediately make a letter of recommendation request to your chosen professor and list a rough timeline in the email. This is not only polite and allows your professors to make the necessary planning, but more importantly, they really need the time to write a good letter of recommendation for you.

It is absolutely important to indicate clearly the recommendation letter submission deadline.

Provide writing materials to your professor

To make it easier for professors to write letters of recommendation, you can take the initiative to provide some information about yourself, such as transcripts, personal statements, resumes and research reports. These materials can allow professors to better understand your background and abilities, allowing them to write more appropriate letters of recommendation.

How is the letter of recommendation submitted?

Typically, professors write recommendation letters and directly submit them to the school through online channels. Students generally do not have access to the precise content of these letters. However, in some cases, professors may choose to share a copy of the letter of recommendation with student after submission. It is advisable not to proactively request professors to disclose the content of the recommendation letter before it’s submitted.

Remember to express your gratitude

Regardless of the outcome of the recommendation letter, it’s essential to promptly convey your gratitude to the recommender. Doing so not only demonstrates courtesy but also contributes to fostering a positive teacher-student relationship in the long run. Furthermore, once the recommendation letter is successfully submitted, it’s important to keep the recommender informed about the progress and outcome of your application, irrespective of its success or failure.

Recommendation letter template for expressing gratitude

Subject: Gratitude for Your Support – Recommendation Letter Request

Dear [Professor/Mentor’s Name],

I hope this message finds you well. I would like to take a moment to express my sincere gratitude for agreeing to write a letter of recommendation on my behalf. Your support means a great deal to me, and I am truly honored to have your endorsement as I pursue [mention the purpose of the application, e.g., college application].

I deeply appreciate the time and effort you have dedicated to crafting the letter of recommendation. Your insights and endorsement will undoubtedly strengthen my application and serve as a testament to my abilities and character.

Please know that I am committed to representing myself in the best possible light and making the most of the opportunities that come my way. Your belief in me fuels my determination to succeed, and I am immensely grateful for your mentorship and support throughout this process.

Once again, thank you for your willingness to write this recommendation letter for me. If there’s anything I can do to assist you or if you need any additional information, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Warm regards,

[Your Name]

Although in most cases many professors will agree to write letters of recommendation for their students, there are also cases of rejection. Some professors may feel that they do not know you well enough, or do not have the time to write an in-depth letter of recommendation for you. Don’t be discouraged if you encounter this situation, but be more proactive in looking for other teachers to write letters of recommendation for you.

Check out this recommendation letter template from Duke University.

Several of our students who have demonstrated strong work ethic, have been fortunate to receive at least one letter of recommendation from their mentors, at the mentors’ discretion. Take a look at this student’s recommendation letter from her mentor at Columbia University.

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