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Quick Guide: How To Request a Letter of Reference

It’s a familiar scenario: You’re getting ready to take the next step towards a new, exciting life chapter. Whether it’s a job you desperately want, or a program you’re dying to get into, you think you have everything you need to apply.

Transcripts? Check.
Updated resume? Check.

You’re just about to hit send when you see it. The position you’re interested in is asking for a letter of reference. 

Asking for a letter of recommendation can be intimidating. Maybe you think no one will have interest in helping you, or you’re simply not sure who to pick. Whether it’s your first time requesting a letter of recommendation, or it’s simply been a while, here are some basics to keep in mind.

Choose The Right Person

Sometimes the hardest part of obtaining a great letter of recommendation is choosing the correct person to write one. Great choices often include the people in your life who have had a chance to experience your work ethic, attitude, and can vouch for your capability and character. Excellent choices include, but are not limited to:

  • Teachers
  • Professors
  • Coaches
  • Bosses and Supervisors
  • Professional acquaintances or coworkers

No matter who you select, the most important factor to consider is whether or not the individual knows you well enough to advocate for your character, and has the ability to write a sincere, informed letter. For example, a letter from a teacher you didn’t know very well may be less compelling than a reference from a coach you’ve worked with closely for years. 

How to Ask

When asking someone for a letter of reference, it’s important to keep in mind that you are technically asking someone you care about for a favor. With this in mind, never make the assumption that someone will automatically accept your request. They may be busy, unavailable, or feel uncomfortable with writing a letter on your behalf. So ask with kindness and sincerity, and respect whatever their response may be. 

Typically, people are honored to be asked to write references for those they care about. It’s always nice to know that your insight and opinion is valued so much that it would be useful in assisting someone with an important life transition. 

After you have gotten affirmative confirmation from your references, there’s certain information you should include to help guide the process.

Make It Easy

Your references are doing you a generous favor by volunteering to endorse you on paper. Do them a favor by making the process easier. 

Always let them know who they are writing to, and why. A brief summary of the program or job position you are applying to can help to guide their voice and give them a framework to base their reference around. 

It may also be helpful to tell your reference why you reached out to them specifically. Let them know why you felt they were the best person to talk about a particular skill set you have. For example, your coach may be able to talk at length about your ability to take direction or rise to a challenge, while a favorite teacher may be able to speak on your work ethic or aptitude in a subject.

The more pertinent information you can provide to your reference, the easier it will be for them to write you a stellar recommendation!

Realistic Deadlines

The best letters are usually not written under a time crunch. In order to avoid your contacts feeling rushed or stressed, it’s best practice to make sure you give them ample notice and a clear, reasonable deadline. 

At least a few weeks of notice will give your references time to think over their words and craft a thoughtful and compelling piece. Furthermore, you’ll have time to read over the recommendation and ensure it includes everything you need for your application.

Follow Up

Let’s face it, people are forgetful. That’s why remembering to follow up with those you’ve reached out to is essential. While they may have said yes, the request could have been forgotten in the hustle and bustle of daily life. Avoid last minute chaos by gently and respectfully reminding your references of your deadlines. After your application is submitted, be sure to contact them if any further action is needed. 

Say Thank You!

Show your references how much you appreciate their time and kind words by sending a personalized thank you. Be it a genuine email, handwritten note, or even a phone call, expressing gratitude shows your friends and mentors that their effort is not taken for granted. 

We’re Here to Help

A transformative educational experience is within reach at Antioch University. If you’re interested in learning more about our admissions process or have questions or concerns about how to apply, please reach out to our Admissions Team today.