Need a Letter of Recommendation? Consider these Tips When Asking for your Next Letter

Chances are, you will need a letter of recommendation at some point in your life – when you apply to graduate school or when you are applying for a teaching position are two examples of when you will need a letter of recommendation from a professor, student teaching supervisor, or cooperating teacher. Below are some tips for politely asking for a letter of recommendation. You want to follow certain guidelines when asking for a letter because you may (ahm, probably will!) need other letters in the future.

Plan Ahead

Ideally, you have at least 2-3 people (this includes professors, cooperating teachers, and your student teaching supervisor) who you can ask for a letter of recommendation. Writing letters of recommendation is not a job requirement for any of the people listed above – in fact, they are writing the letter to support you and your future education or career. It is important to have a list of about five people who could write a letter for you – in case someone is unable to write a letter at the time when you need one. In addition, it is important to give the person ample time to write the letter. I suggest giving 3-4 weeks notice, especially if you are asking for multiple letters of recommendation. I do not recommend only giving 1-2 days notice as it is not respectful of the person who is writing the letter’s time. If you know you are applying for jobs, it is necessary to contact a few possible recommenders and tell them you are in the process of applying for jobs or to graduate school and ask if they would be willing to write a letter in the next 1-2 months. This way, you are giving the recommender time and you can find someone else if the first person you asked is unable to write a letter. Finally, make sure you are very polite when you ask for a letter of recommendation. Show that you are asking for a letter because you trust the person and enjoyed working with her during class or when student teaching. 

Provide Relevant Details 

Writing good letters of recommendation takes some time. You want the person who is writing your letter of recommendation to include personal anecdotes about your work in class or in the classroom rather than a generic letter that does not do much to describe you or your work. To be respectful of the person writing the letter of recommendation, try to give specific examples of work you completed in class or lessons you taught. You can also describe what you learned from the professor or teacher and how you implemented it into your teaching. 

You also need to provide all logistical details so that the person writing the letter does not need to go back and forth with you multiple times. Be organized! Make sure you include the semester you worked with this person, your course grade, your overall GPA (or your current GPA), and the job you are applying for and why you are qualified for this position. In addition, make sure you provide the name of the person who is receiving the letter and his/her address. If you are applying to graduate school, you need to be just as thorough – provide the names of the schools and programs where you are applying, why you are applying to this particular program, and what you hope to accomplish through this program. You also need to give directions for how the letter should be submitted and who is submitting the letter – you or the recommender. Again, be as thorough and clear as possible so the person writing your letter has more than enough information to write an awesome letter. 

Finally, make sure you give a deadline so it is clear when the letter needs to be submitted. Do not make the person writing the recommendation email you back for this information.

Send One Reminder Email

People get busy and sometimes they may forget when your letter is due, especially if asked to write letters for multiple students. Because you gave multiple weeks notice about your letter, you can send the person a reminder email the week before your letter is due. Make sure you are polite when writing this email – you can include the due date for the letter and ask if any other information is needed from you in order to finish writing the letter. I do not suggest emailing reminder emails too often, as it may be annoying to the person writing the letter. Checking-in a week prior to the due date is plenty.

Follow-Up with a Thank You

I have noticed that very few people say thank you when I write letters of recommendation. Rarely do I receive a thank you email. Once someone writes a letter of recommendation for you, it is important to thank them for taking extra time and putting in the effort to write you a letter. The least you can do is write a thoughtful email acknowledging the support she provided to your education and/or career. If the person wrote multiple letters of recommendation, I suggest writing a handwritten thank you card and you may want to consider including a little gift with your thank you card. It is important to show that you appreciate the extra time and effort the recommender put into helping you, so do not skip this step. You are entering the profession and may be working with cooperating teachers or professors again in the future – show that you appreciate their time.