Requesting Letters of Recommendation: Professional Development for College and Beyond

 

At some point in your college career, you will be inclined to request a letter of recommendation from a trusted professor or mentor. Perhaps you will be applying to become an RA for the dorms during your sophomore year? Maybe you’ll need a letter of recommendation for a scholarship or an internship? Or perhaps you’ll need one as you apply for graduate school? Whatever the case, these quick tips are sure to help you get the most out of your request for a letter of recommendation.

What is a letter of recommendation?

A letter of rec is generally a document that describes your qualifications for a specific job, position, or role. Letters of recommendation are used by prospective employers, colleges, and organizations to gain a sense of what kind of worker or student you are. Strong letters of recommendation are usually from mentors or professors with whom you have good rapport.

How do I know which professor or mentor to request a letter of recommendation from?

It is always a good idea to consider your past performance before you request a letter of recommendation. Even if you enjoyed a particular professor’s course, if you were unable to meet all of their academic expectations or only had them for one class, they might not be the best resource for requesting a letter. Instead, you might consider a professor or mentor who has worked with you over an extended period of time. If, during this time, you occasionally did not meet their expectations, they can attest to your overall performance in a more holistic way, ensuring that your small shortcomings are overshadowed by your glowing work ethic.

Where do I start with this letter of rec business?

First, begin by composing a professionally formatted email. You should have a specific subject line, a formal greeting, a clear purpose, closing remarks, and a salutation. You can refer to my previous blog post in the link below for more specific details and tips.

https://marshallwritingcenter.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/crafting-the-perfect-professional-email/

 

Your Purpose for this email is to inform your professor that you have a specific opportunity and to request that they compose a letter of recommendation for you. Make sure that you provide them with the specifications of this opportunity. They should know what your prospective job or role will entail, how your performance in their class will be relevant to your opportunity, and why you feel that they would be a fitting recommender.

You should also include a list of your academic and professional achievements so that they might reference them in your letter. These achievements do not necessarily have to be tied to your performance in their class. Make sure to include all up to date accolades that you have received. Remember, it is up to their discretion what they include in the letter of rec, so don’t be upset if you feel that they should have included something that didn’t make the cut.

Remember to provide your professor or mentor with the necessary contact details of the organization where you will be applying. Frequently, letters of recommendation are sent directly to the organization by the recommender. This is because they are generally viewed as confidential documents and your prospective employer or organization wants to ensure that the document has not been tampered with. You should note that not every recommender will send you the letter that they send to your prospective employer—and that is absolutely okay if not normal.

Finally, remember to follow up with your recommender and send them a formal email thanking them for their time and the influence that they have been on you while you have had the chance to work them. This shows that you are dedicated to professional development and that you are grateful for their service. This also gives you the opportunity to enquire as to when they sent out your letter.

 

Creating a professionally formatted request for a letter of recommendation doesn’t just teach you this necessary professional skill, but it also increases your likelihood of receiving a letter that is specifically geared toward the accolades that you wish to highlight to your prospective employer. By providing your recommender with all of the accomplishments that you have earned, you are showing them that you are organized, that you care about your professional life, and that you greatly desire the opportunity that their letter can help provide.

 

Now get out there and take ownership over your professional life!

 

-Lauren T

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