A letter of recommendation is written only when it is specifically requested for by someone. The recommendation letters are submitted only when specifically asked for. Hence an organization or a person who needs a letter of reference has to request it of someone superior to him in rank or designation. Generally, a recommendation letter is required when applying for a scholarship, job opportunity or securing admission to an institution of higher learning. Most of the universities ask candidates to submit an endorsement letter (letter of recommendation) written by teachers alongside with other documents such as research proposal, study plan, transcripts degree certifications, motivation letter or statement of purpose with admission and scholarship application.
What is a Letter of Recommendation?
A letter of recommendation is also referred to as a letter of reference, recommendation letter, reference letter, letter of endorsement or just as a reference. It is a kind of reference certificate given on a person’s (more often than not, a junior/subordinate) character, education, background, and work experience by his/her superior designated person. The superior ranked official writing a letter of recommendation has to evaluate the abilities, character, and potential of the junior being written about. Based on this evaluation the superior official then vouches in writing for the junior and endorses his/her abilities in the letter of recommendation document.
Electronic Letter of Recommendation via email
Some institutions have their own online system where candidates are required to submit the letter of recommendations of endorsement letters. The way this works is a little complicated because the candidates and the person recommending the candidates are required to signup on the institutional website and then the person who recommends him has to write an online recommendation from his institutional email address. Requesting an electronic form of recommendation letter sometimes become hectic because the candidate is required to follow up with the official who is actually recommending the candidate. The electronic letter of recommendation is different from classical paper formated recommendation letter which can be printed on thick resume kind of paper and then signed stamped and submitted.
How hard is it to a request for a Letter of Recommendation?
Requesting someone for a letter of recommendation or endorsement letter could be compared to asking someone out on a date. It’s intimidating, you’re hoping and praying for a favorable reply to obtain the letter of recommendation but are also inwardly steeling yourself for a ‘no’! You are putting yourself out there to be judged by a person that you hold in high esteem and whose opinion matters to you in the recommendation letter. It can cause a lot of stress. However, if you’re mindful about whom and how you make your endorsement request, you could ensure that the task is smoothly executed. For students requesting their teachers for a letter of recommendation, the process should be smoother as most teachers are willing to support students in their academic pursuits, especially where the teacher-student relationship is good.
How Soon Can You Put in a Request for a Letter of Recommendation?
Four weeks before your submission cut-off date is an ideal time to make your request for a letter of recommendation, provided your teachers/employer haven’t laid down other guidelines for this. If you have varying cut-off dates then your recommendation letter request should be made four weeks prior to the earliest cut-off date.
How to ask the professor for a Letter of Recommendation?
Requesting your teachers/professors for a letter of recommendation is a usual part of the process for graduate admissions, job applications, or scholarship applications or for the internships. Requests for letters of recommendation are best made in writing and sufficiently in advance. You can follow the procedure mentioned below to make your recommendation letter request:
- Begin well in advance of your cut-off date
Place your request to your teachers/professors much before your cut-off date. Give them plenty of time to compose your letter since they would be busy with their teaching jobs. Besides, you too would need time to go through your application instructions to find out what form of a letter of recommendation was being required of you. Bear in mind that every teacher/professor you ask may not oblige you with a letter. Be prepared to ask more than one teacher/professor. Ask only one person at a time unless you need more than one letter of recommendation.
- Judiciously decide which teacher/professor is likely to furnish you with a good letter of recommendation
Pick a teacher/professor with whom you share a good rapport to write your letter of recommendation if possible. You should feel that he/she likes you besides knowing you well. This will ensure that you receive a strong recommendation. Consider these points when making your decision.
- The number of classes that you have taken with the teacher/professor
- Whether he/she knows you by name
- Whether you did well in their classes
- Whether they are familiar with your work
- Whether you interact with them outside the classroom
- Whether you were well-behaved in their class
- Whether they are aware of your academic growth
- Confirm the cut-off dates for submission of your letter of recommendation
Ensure that you are aware of the cut-off date for the submission of your letter of recommendation. This date may or may not differ from the application cut-off. Inform your teacher/professor too about the cut-off date and the specific date by which you would require the letter of recommendation so that you have enough time to put together your application documentation.
- Provide ample time for your teacher/professor to write your letter of recommendation
Your teachers/professors are busy people and you have to take this into account when making your request for a letter of recommendation. Besides, yours would not be the only request for a letter of recommendation that they receive. Hence, put in your request at least a couple of months before the cut-off date to afford your teachers/professors enough time to work on your letter. This would also increase the likelihood of your receiving a positive reply to your request. Preferable time for putting in your request would be at the beginning of the semester.
- Find out how to submit your letter of recommendation from your application instructions
Read your application instructions to find out if your letter of recommendation should be uploaded online or mailed. At times the teacher/professor writing your letter of recommendation has to directly submit your letter to the institution that you are applying to. Inform your teacher/professor about how the letter has to be submitted in advance so that there are no delays later. Your teacher/professor may wish to confidentially send in the letter of recommendation directly to your institute. Hence, if you would be the one submitting the letter you would need to specify this point clearly in your communication with them. They could then opt to hand over to you a signed and sealed envelope that would ensure that you would not open the letter.
How to Ask Your Professor for a Letter of Recommendation Via Email?
Begin your email with a ‘Dear’ and the teacher’s/professor’s name with designation if any. Their designations can be obtained from your school website. For example, ‘Dear Ms. Davis’
Introduce yourself to your teacher/professor with your name and the classes that you took with them. Remind them of any memorable interactions that you may have had with them. Keep this part of your email short and to-the-point. Amore detailed description of your academic background and achievements can be provided in an email attachment.
Explain that you have contacted them for a letter of recommendation and why you need the letter. Give them a few relevant details of the course/program/job that you would be applying for.
- Reasons for your Choice
Explain why you picked them to write your letter of recommendation. Tell them how they have influenced your life and how much you value what you learned from them. This part of your email calls for some flattery, so don’t hold back!
- Provide Information
In this part of your email, you have to give them the information that you would want to be mentioned in your letter of recommendation. Explain what you have attached with your email; details of everything you’ve accomplished so far and a resume. Also, provide them with information on the classes you’ve taken, awards won, research completed, activities that you were a part of, and so on. Besides, you should make yourself available for a personal meeting if they require it.
In case you require that your teacher/professor sends in the letter of recommendation directly to your institution, you have to provide him/her with the necessary instructions for the same. Give them the cut-off date and the physical or digital address that the letter has to be sent to.
Conclude your email by thanking them for taking the time to read and consider your request and for their role as teacher and guide in your life. Also, add that you hope that they will agree to write your letter of recommendation.
- Sign off
Sign off your email with a professional close like ‘Sincerely’ or ‘Best regards’. Write your name directly below on the next line.
10 Tips to Request the Letter of Recommendation:
1. Maintain Good Teacher-Student Relationships
Students looking to obtain letters of recommendation from their teachers/professors should create good relationships with their teachers. This will ease out the process of requesting a letter of recommendation later and provide you with many options when picking teachers/professors to make that request to as well.
2. Begin Preparations Early
Begin planning for your letters of recommendation well in advance of the commencement of college applications, ideally at the close of your junior year. Some of your teachers/professors may be willing to accept a letter of recommendation requests in the summer prior to your senior year. Teachers/professors who do not should be applied to at the start of your senior year if possible or at least a few months before your cut-off dates. This will ensure your teachers/professors have sufficient time to compose a great letter for you.
3. Be Polite and Gracious in Your Request
Writing letters of recommendation is not part of a teacher’s/professor’s duties. He/she would be doing so for you only as an act of kindness. Hence, don’t just write them an email that’s a couple of sentences long telling them to write a letter of recommendation for you. This approach will in all probability not meet with any success. Instead, find the time to meet up with them personally and politely ask them whether they could spare the time and are willing to write a letter of recommendation for you. Let them know that you are asking them because you have faith in their judgment and because they were your favorites. If you are communicating with them in writing, ensure that you word your mail formally and politely.
4. Inquire about the Kind of Endorsement Letter that you are Likely to Receive
All letters of recommendation are not the same. Some teachers/professors take pains to write a glowing, personalized recommendation for their students while others may write a general, to-the-point letter. If you ask, they will probably tell you what kind of letter they will be writing for you. Some teachers/professors may not have the time while others may not be as experienced in writing letters of recommendation. They would probably use a template off the internet to write the letter for you. When inquiring about the kind of letter they would be writing for you, be careful about how you word your inquiry. Don’t ask if the letter will be good or bad. Instead, ask them what kind of information on a student they generally include in a letter of recommendation
5. Adopt a Decorous Manner
Your teacher/professor will probably be the one evaluating you for admission to college, and his/her judgment will be based on the most recent interactions he/she has had with you. Ensure that you are always decorous in your interactions with your teachers/professors, either when corresponding with them or in person.
6. Incorporate Pertinent Personal Details
If the teacher/professor you have made a request to hasn’t taught you recently, you would need to jog his/her memory by recalling specific incidents or interactions that you had with him/her that was memorable for you. Besides, you should provide all relevant statistics and data regarding your academics to your teacher/professor. Don’t expect your teacher/professor to have this data. Most importantly, don’t forget to inform your teacher/professor about the cut-off date for submission of your letter of recommendation.
7. Submit a Resume
Giving the teacher/professor a résumé of what you have achieved so far will assist them in writing your recommendation. If your cv clearly shows your competence then it will not be hard for your employer or teacher to issue you with a letter of recommendation.
8. Initiate Follow Ups
After you’ve put in your request for a letter of reference, keep in touch with your teacher/professor over mail or personally, to ensure that your teacher/professor remembers to write your letter of reference before the cut-off date.
9. A Reminder
Send in a reminder to your teacher/professor if your cut-off date is drawing near and you haven’t received the letter.
10. Express Your Gratitude
Once you receive the recommendation don’t forget to thank your teacher/professor for the time and effort they have spent on your letter.