Reference Letters

How to Get a Letter of Recommendation (also called a "reference letter")

What's the best way to get a letter of recommendation to include in your college or scholarship application? Be sure your letter writers know who you are! Try to imagine being in their shoes: it would be hard to write about someone you didn't know that well.
  • Build relationships with counselors and teachers who seem helpful to you. Get to know them and let them get to know you -- it will be easier to ask someone you already know for help.
  • Give them a copy of your personal resume - a brief summary of your work experience and qualifications. (Build up your resume if you don't have much work experience by volunteering in the community and noting other personal achievements in clubs, sports or other school activities.)
  • Share a personal essay, which explains why you want to go to college and/or what you want to study.

Give them enough time!

  • Start asking for a letter of recommendation as early as possible. Try to plan for all letters to be collected 2 to 4 weeks before application deadlines. Remember that teachers may receive many requests for recommendations, so be sure to give them ample time to prepare them. A courtesy reminder a few days in advance of the deadline is helpful and will help make sure each letter gets done on time.
  • Be sure they don't have to spend extra time preparing mailing envelopes or obtaining stamps to get their letters out. Have the envelopes prepared and ready to go when you first approach them.

Don't forget to say "Thank You."

  • Write a short note to express your appreciation to your letter writer for their help and also say thank you in person. They deserve your gratitude and you should maintain a good relationship in case you need further help later.