Asking for Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are a critical part of scholarship, internship and graduate school applications.

  • Choose your recommenders carefully.  They need to know you well enough to provide specific examples of your work and character.
  • Make sure you include professors in your field.
  • Pay attention to scholarship guidelines for the number of letters you need and who should supply those letters.
  • Be prepared to provide details of what you need in your letter. The more specific you can be, the better the letter is likely to be.
  • Have in mind some alternates.  If someone says they can’t write a good letter for you, appreciate their honesty and ask someone else.

Etiquette for asking:

  • If it’s feasible, visit the professor in person, by appointment, to ask for a letter. This underscores your serious commitment to the process.
  • Ask early. Respect your recommender’s time. Always give at least 4 weeks notice, and follow up as necessary.
  • Always thank your recommender and keep them updated on the outcome of your application.

Provide the following information to your recommender:

  • An updated resume and a list of your recent activities.
  • Information about the scholarship for which you are applying, including the award and its selection criteria.
  • Your transcript.
  • A brief outline describing how you know the recommender: titles of papers you wrote for class, for example, or highlights of a research activity.
  • The name, title and address of the person and/or committee to whom the letter should be addressed. This should include the complete address, including street, city, state and zip code. Make sure the spellings are accurate.
  • The due date of the letter and where it should be sent upon completion (the Top Scholarships Office, the selection committee, or somewhere else.)
  • Your personal contact information, in case the recommender has additional questions.
  • Instruction for online submission, or a stamped addressed envelope for the letter, as required.