Are you working on your university transfer application, trying to get a peer mentor position, or applying for a scholarship? Often times, you need to ask a professor or advisor for a letter of recommendation. Your professors are busy people, and are often bombarded by student requests for references a week before a deadline. It’s never too early to ask for a letter of recommendation, and giving them plenty of time ensures the person will be able to craft a letter that will put you in the best light possible. You don’t want someone who is irritated you waited until two days before the deadline to be writing about you! Here are a few tips and suggestions from the IP advisors and faculty:

  • Make sure you include the purpose of the letter (CLEO, Peer Mentor, university application, etc.) and which qualities the writer should stress.
  • Clearly identify your student ID. 
  • If you are asking a former teacher for a letter, make sure you give details about when they were their student (course name, quarter, year, grade).
  • Clearly specify when you need the letter back. If you are requesting multiple copies, a list of all the schools/scholarships you are applying for and the deadlines.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute as your professor/advisor may be asked by multiple applicants. You need to be considerate of their time and you don’t want them to be in a rush when writing. Ideally, give them at least 2-3 weeks notice prior to the final deadline.
  • Pick someone with whom you have a personal relationship (for instance, your supervisor at work or a professor you’ve had multiple quarters). Also make sure you know what the person you ask is going to say. Did you do well in the class? How well does he/she know you? Does he/she have personal knowledge of your leadership ability and special skills? Asking a professor who gave you a 2.0 in your physics class might not be the best choice. Asking someone who doesn’t know you very well will result in a very generic letter of recommendation.   
  • Give them a list of your activities and leadership experience so it’s easy for them to draft the letter. Otherwise, the letter probably won’t be very detailed.
  • Be polite. Don’t be demanding – they are doing you a favor by writing a letter of recommendation. If someone says no, thank them and find someone else.
  • Provide envelopes with stamps if letters need to be mailed.
  • Follow up with a thank you note. Let them know if you got the scholarship. They will remember that the next time you need a letter of recommendation.