How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation (LOR) should be written by someone who can vouch for your accomplishments. And no, you can’t ask your mom or BFF for letters. Letters should be written by a teacher, counselor, a coach, or a mentor. To help get you started, we asked the folks at Get Schooled for some tips and here is what we found out.

Start think about who to ask and when to ask for letters of recommendation.

  • If it is for some special award or program, ask anytime but be sure to give them several weeks to complete the letter of recommendation.
  • If you are a senior, fifty-five percent of educators said they’d prefer if you asked them for a letter of recommendation the fall of your senior year. Some educators may be open to writing you a letter before then, but the fall of your senior year is your best bet.

Steps to a terrific recommendation

  1. Ask an educator in person
    • While some schools may have recommendation letter packets for students to fill out, 66% of educators prefer if you ask them for a letter in person. Asking an educator for a letter in person will give the educator a better impression of you. Talking to you face-to-face will stick out to them more than sending an email. Also, ask an educator who knows you the most and is the most relevant to what the LOR will be used for. (Example – sport scholarship, ask your Coach!) They’ll be more inclined to write a letter since they have a more personal experience with you.
  2. Give an educator at least a 3-week notice before it’s due
    • It takes educators about a week to complete a letter of recommendation, but that doesn’t mean you should only give them a week. Based on the educators we asked, on average, they complete about 20 letters of recommendation a year. Your request will be added to that pile. By giving them three weeks, you’re giving them enough time to write an awesome letter, follow-up and give them a reminder.
  3. Explain the Opportunity or Award you are applying for
    • For example…The MAC Scholar Athlete program is for high school sophomores who are involved in competitive athletics, committed to their academics with a minimum GPA of 3.0, and making a positive impact in their community. The MAC Scholar Athlete program accelerates the success of promising students by providing access to a community that enhances athletic performance, educational opportunities, and social connections. Sending this to your recommender helps them understand how they should frame their letter.
  4. Create a Brag Sheet
    • A Brag Sheet is a student resume. Your Brag Sheet should include accomplishments, skills, and abilities you’d like your educators to know about. Your Brag Sheet will help your recommender get a better sense of what you’ve done and who you are. When they’re crafting your letter, the Brag Sheet will help them highlight your accomplishments and make you a stand-out applicant for college. Or it showcases your accomplishments, experiences, leadership skills, extracurricular activities, and any employment or volunteer work you’ve done during your high school career.  
  5. Send thank you letters
    • For every educator who writes you a letter of recommendation, send them a thank you letter. They put in the work for you; they deserve a thank you card. Remember, they are people too!

This document was originally created by Get Schooled and was compiled by the Multnomah Athletic Foundation.