Recommendation Letter 101
BY: Serrah Nichols
What is a recommendation letter? Why is it so important? How do I ask for one? These are all questions you may be asking yourself when it comes to completing important applications for colleges, scholarships, or jobs. Don’t stress— we’ve got the answers!
What is a recommendation letter, and why is it so important?
A recommendation letter is written by someone who is familiar with your work ethic and skills, has witnessed your character, and can vouch for your credibility. Basically, it serves as proof of your abilities. Recommendation letters allow potential colleges, scholarship programs, and employers to have a sneak-peak into your past performance.
What is included in a recommendation letter? The writer includes information about any of your characteristics that make you a great asset to the university, company, or scholarship program for which you are applying. These characteristics could include things such as:
- Skill in the job field
- Work ethic
Who do I ask for one?
You can ask any adult who is not related to you (sorry, Mom!) and has experience with you on a professional level. This could be a teacher, a coach, your church minister, or a previous employer.
How do I ask for one? Once you’ve selected someone to ask, it’s a good idea to write them a letter detailing the reasons you need their recommendation. Include details about the position you’re applying to so they’ll have a better understanding of how to structure their writing. Don’t forget to attach an updated copy of your resumé— this will make it easier for them to highlight your accolades and accomplishments. If they agree to write a recommendation letter for you, make sure to provide a date by which they need to send it off. Thank them in advance, and thank them afterwards with a nice note. When you find someone who agrees to write your letter, give them a pre-addressed and stamped envelope to send the letter off in. Make their job as easy as possible!
Here are a few tips from the Auburn University at Montgomery Admissions Team for requesting letters of recommendation:
- Help your letter writer understand what the recommendation is for by sharing the criteria for the scholarship, program, etc., and remind them of your strengths in those areas.
- Make sure you and your letter writer know the submission deadline and rules. For example, will they be making their recommendation through an online portal? Do they need to send a paper copy directly to the college or program head?
- Give your letter writer plenty of time to meet your request — at least a month (although two months is optimal). They may have questions about the process and about your particular interests and strengths.