Tips For Requesting a Letter of Recommendation

1.  You want to ask your recommenders if they are willing to write you a strong letter of recommendation.

2.  You want to select recommenders who know you well and can describe your strengths, accomplishments and potential for a particular opportunity or program--beyond what you have already included in your application. Ideally, your recommenders should be people with whom you have forged a strong relationship and whose letters will enhance your application. Look at what the application forms ask the letter writer to address (qualities, types of experiences, etc.) and then to think about who best could address those particular characteristics. Consider asking your recommenders in person, if possible. You may need to request a letter via e-mail or a phone call. Be courteous and professional, and update your recommenders on your accomplishments and interest in pursuing said opportunity or program. Give your recommenders the option to decline. If they are not willing or able to write a strong letter of recommendation, find someone else. You should brainstorm with your advisor(s) a list of possible recommenders to approach.

3.  You want to give your recommenders ample time to write your letter of recommendation. You should give at least two weeks notice, and preferably at least a month's notice. Writing strong and meaningful letters takes quite a bit of time. You want to be mindful of a recommender's schedule and other responsibilities including writing letters of recommendation for other students as well.

4.  You want to make the writing process as easy as possible for your recommenders. Provide the following information to assist your recommenders:

  • Updated resume or CV that includes a listing and description of your honors, work, activities, presentations, publications, etc. (Visit the Career Services Office for assistance in creating a resume or CV, if needed.)
  • An initial draft of your personal statement or statement of grant purpose to better inform your recommenders about what you have accomplished and why you are applying for this specific opportunity.
  • A copy of your application, if possible.
  • A detailed description of the program or opportunity for which you are applying and any specific instructions provided for recommenders.
  • Specific deadline(s) by which the letter(s) of recommendation needs to be submitted.
  • Specific instructions for completing and mailing (provide your recommenders with self-addressed and stamped envelopes) or uploading electronic letters of recommendation or recommendation forms.
  • The link to the GVSU Office of Fellowships Tips on Writing Effective Letters of Recommendation which includes a link to Joe Schalls Writing Recommendation Letters On-Line.

5.  You may need to give your recommenders a gentle reminder a week before the deadline if they have not submitted their recommendation.

6.  You should always send a thank you to your recommenders expressing your appreciation for their time and support of your application. Keep them updated both on the outcome of your application and your next steps.

Written by Amanda Cuevas, Founding Director, Frederik Meijer Office of Fellowships