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How to Ask for Reference Letters

This guide provides insights into the purpose of recommendation letters, whom to approach, and how to go about the request.


Feb 07, 2024

How to Ask for A Recommendation Letter: Tips and Template

Securing letters of recommendation for your university applications is a crucial step that doesn't require your direct input. However, navigating the process of selecting the right individuals and making the request can be challenging. This guide provides insights into the purpose of recommendation letters, whom to approach, and how to go about the request, ensuring you present your qualifications effectively.

Why do you need a recommendation letter?

Recommendation letters offer a unique perspective on your achievements and character, providing admissions officers with a deeper understanding beyond your application. This insight sets you apart from other candidates, especially in situations where qualifications are similar. Whether showcasing academic progress, achievements, or personal qualities, a strong recommendation can significantly enhance your college application.

Letters of recommendation also allow schools and programmes to get a sense of how others perceive you as a student and a scholar: how well you cope in the face of setbacks, how self-motivated and self-aware you are, whether you work well with others, and whether you get your work done well and on time.

Who should I ask to write my recommendation letter? 

Look for someone who has known you for a long time or has seen you work hard at school, a job, or an extra-curricular activity. They should be able to explain well why you're a good fit for the program.

A good recommendation should show your best qualities with specific stories and examples. The people reading the letters should feel that the person writing it was happy to talk about you and wanted to help you get into college. Your recommender can talk positively about you, and it's important that they have stories and examples to support what they say.

Usually, it's best to ask academic teachers, especially those in important subjects like English, Math, or Science. But some places also accept recommendations from advisors or school counselors. The main thing is to choose people who know you well and can talk about your strengths, leadership, academic goals, and honesty.

A strong letter can boost your application, but a weak or unhelpful one can hurt it. That's why it's important to pick people who can write very positively about you – those who can give real examples of how good you are and give a clear, professionally informed opinion on your bright future.

What if I’m not close to any teachers? Isn’t it awkward to ask? 

While it's ideal to have established relationships before making a recommendation request, it's never too late to connect with teachers. Take the initiative to engage with them during office hours, after class, or in any available setting. Initiating conversations about your university plans can serve as a natural starting point.

When to ask for recommendations? 

Request recommendations well in advance, ideally at least a month or two months before the application deadline. Be aware that teachers may need time to craft good recommendations, and you may not be the only student making such requests. Choose an appropriate time to approach teachers, avoiding busy periods, and consider scheduling a dedicated time for discussion so that you can provide them with all you need. 

How to ask for recommendations? 

The most effective way to request a recommendation is in person. This allows for a meaningful conversation, where you can provide essential information such as the list of universities you're applying to, your intended programme of study, a professional resume, and any relevant application details. Follow up with a well-structured email, including the necessary details and expressing gratitude.

Script to ask for recommendation: 

Hi [Teacher’s Name], I'm getting my uni application ready for next year, and I was wondering if you could write me a recommendation letter. I really value your perspective [provide a brief reason why e.g. learned a lot from their class, really enjoy discussions etc ], and I think you could highlight some important aspects of my time in your class. If you're up for it, I can provide you with the materials you might need: my grades, a draft of my personal statement, and the school's guidelines for recommendation letters. Thank you!

Sample Follow-Up Email Template:

Subject: Follow-Up on Letter of Recommendation Request

Dear [Teacher’s Name],

I sincerely appreciate your willingness to provide me with a letter of recommendation for college. As I anticipate joining x university for the [programme], your support is invaluable. I have entered your information into the application portal, and you should receive a submission prompt shortly. Attached are my resume, transcript and draft of my personal statement for your reference.

If you have any questions or need further clarification, please don't hesitate to reach out. Your assistance is immensely appreciated.

Thank you once again,

[Your name] 

Final Summary Tips on Requesting Letters of Recommendation:

  • Ask in person and well in advance to demonstrate preparedness and respect for your teacher's time.
  • In-person requests build a personal connection, making the recommendation more genuine.
  • Inquire about your teacher's preferred process for writing recommendation letters.
  • Follow up periodically to show appreciation and provide additional information if needed.


If you'd like more information about how we can help you with letters of recommendation or any part of the university application process, sign up for a free, no-obligation consultation!


Founded in 1999 to provide comprehensive standardised test preparation and admissions coaching for students embarking on their university education.


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