Three Don’ts When Asking for Letters of Recommendation

By - Oct 11, 05:00 AM Comments [0]

The individuals who agree to write your letters of recommendation (LORs) are doing you a favor, so the least you can do is make their job easier by following proper LOR etiquette. Breaking the rules we outline in this post could result in your recommenders deciding not to write a favorable recommendation letter for you or maybe even not to write one at all. Stay on your recommenders’ good side, help them be organized, and most importantly, make sure you do not commit any of these LOR mistakes.

1. Do not give them short notice.

Your recommenders have full-time jobs, personal lives, and potentially other recommendations to write. If you ask for their recommendation too close to the deadline, you might end up without one. A good rule to keep in mind is to give your recommenders at least one month of advance notice. If you do, they should have plenty of time to schedule and write the letter.

2. Do not give them an incomplete package of materials.

There are several documents that you must submit to your recommender if you want the greatest chance of (1) receiving a good recommendation and (2) having that good recommendation submitted on time. While being thorough, you still want to keep your emails to your recommenders as short and clear as possible. What do they need from you to be able to write you a great letter and submit it correctly and on time? Here are some materials your recommender will likely require:

  • A copy of your resume/CV
  • Information about the school/program to which you’re applying (at least the name of the program/school and info on what track or area of interest you plan to pursue)
  • A short summary of your interests and goals related to the degree you’re pursuing, plus reminders about experiences you’ve shared with the recommender that highlight positive characteristics of yours that you would like them to mention in their LOR. This might include reminding them of a class you took with them, a project they helped you with, or some interesting conversations you had with them about their field of study.
  • A link with instructions on what they need to do for/include in their LOR
  • A clear deadline (this could be a few days before the final deadline, which would give you time to troubleshoot any technical difficulties)

3. Do not give them attitude.

Writing LORs takes time, which is an irreplaceable and highly valuable commodity. Be polite and gracious when asking for a recommendation.

Provide all the necessary materials in an organized, labeled fashion so that your recommenders can easily review them and get started writing, without needing to sort through a jumble of messy papers or unclear links or instructions. The better you present yourself and your materials, the easier you’ll make their job, the more impressed with you they’ll be, and – if all goes well – the better your LOR will turn out.

It’s also a good idea – not to mention simple good manners – to send your recommender a thank-you note. While an email is very nice, a handwritten note is the old-fashioned touch that will help them to remember you positively and might even lead to them agreeing to write another letter for you down the line!

Vanessa Febo admissions expert headshot

Vanessa Febo has ten years of experience teaching academic and professional writing at UCLA, with a special certification in teaching writing techniques. She has drawn on this expertise to guide clients to placements at top institutions, including Harvard, Stanford, and USC. Before joining Accepted, Vanessa coached UCLA students through the application process for graduate programs, major grants, fellowships, and scholarships, including the Fulbright, Stanford Knight-Hennessey, and the Ford Foundation Fellowship. Additionally, Vanessa has extensive experience successfully guiding clients through applications for a diverse range of programs, including those in business, humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields. Want Vanessa to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!

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