How to ask for a recommendation (and get a really good one!)

 

Asking for a recommendation can be tricky and intimidating – but it doesn’t have to be. The best advice I can give about asking for a recommendation is this: make doing so as easy as possible for the recommender.

This means:

1. Asking for a recommendation as early as possible, giving them as much time as you can for them to prepare and respond.

2. Be clear. Do they need to send a response via email or by mail? Does it need to be on official letterhead? Know the answers and provide them that information – preferably in writing with your request.

3. Provide any supplies they will need – that means stamps, envelopes, etc. Don’t make them have to pay for your recommendation. They are the ones doing you a favor.

4. Provide your recommender with all of your information. That includes a resume and any additional information you’d like them to include.

5. Request they let you know when they’ve submitted their recommendation. If you have a week (or two) until a deadline and haven’t heard from them, check in. They’ll have either submitted it and forgotten to notify you or you’ll remind them with enough time to submit.

6. Be polite and say thank you. Your recommender is doing you a favor. Most teachers/coaches/bosses expect to be asked to write recommendations from time to time, but that doesn’t mean you should expect them to do so. Ask politely if they’d be willing to provide you a recommendation and once they’ve submitted, remember to thank them by leaving a brief note or sending a simple thank you email. Courtesy matters.




High School Students: If you are asking for a college recommendation, make sure to include all of the following in your request (I suggest by submitting a resume) so that your recommender has a complete and well-rounded picture of you from high school:
  • All clubs and activities (including any leadership positions and how long you’ve participated in each one) both in school and outside of school (ie. youth group, volunteering at the local food bank, etc)
  • Any awards or accomplishments
  • Sports or teams you participated in and any leadership positions held
  • Your hobbies
  • Jobs or internships you’ve had
  • Any special or extra home responsibilities you have
  • A list of courses you are currently taking and your current grade in each
  • A list of last year’s courses and your end of year grade in each
  • Your approximate grade point average (GPA) and class rank
  • What you think you want to study in college (major) and what you want to do after you finish college and why

Note: If you asking for multiple recommendations (for multiple college you are applying to, for example), do your best to ask for all of the recommendations from each recommender at the same time (and way ahead of the deadline) if possible. Clearly label everything and provide all the necessary materials at once with deadlines for each clearly labeled. With a little planning, recommendations need not be stressful! If you’d like to read more about preparing a resume, click here. Also a special thanks to my high school English teacher for inspiring much of this post.

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