What is a Letter of Recommendation (LOR)?
A letter of recommendation, also referred to as a letter of reference, is a letter written by an evaluator addressing your strengths, characteristics and abilities you have that make you qualified for a job, admissions to a university, scholarship, etc.
Why are LORs important?
Letters of recommendation are meant to highlight your abilities as a student beyond your resume, GPA and test scores. While your evaluator may choose to include those statistics in your letter, they will also expand on how they view you as a person. LORs also show that you have someone who believes in your abilities and who is willing to speak on your behalf.
Who should I ask to write my LOR?
First it is important to understand the requirements for your LOR, as some schools have requirements that will specify who they would like to write your letter. Next, take time to think of someone who you are confident will write a strong supportive letter of recommendation as opposed to an average one. Do not ask for a letter from a family member as they appear biased and do not hold merit.
When thinking about who you will ask, don't forget to consider teachers from previous years who you still have a strong connection with, coaches, or employers. Additionally, while it shouldn't be your priority, it is helpful if your evaluator has a connection to the program you are applying to, for example is an alum of the university the letter will go to. If you're unsure about asking someone, ask them directly if they would feel comfortable writing you a supportive letter of recommendation to avoid a weak evaluation.
How and when do I ask for a LOR?
If possible, it is always best to ask for letters of recommendation personally and one month before they are due. Think about who you are asking and decide whether it's best to make an appointment to talk to them or if they will have time to talk after class or the next time you will see them. When asking for the letter, mention specific work you have done under them that you are proud of and what you have learned from them. Be prepared with a resume that also includes a list of your test scores and GPA. Make sure to provide them with any specifications there may be for the letter of recommendation, for example some organization prefer the letter be submitted with letterhead. Also be sure to provide your evaluator with all of your contact information in case they have questions or need more information while writing your letter.
- Don't be afraid to follow-up with your evaluators. Contact them 2 weeks and then 1 week before your letter is due to make sure it will be submitted on time.
- Waive your right to read the LOR as it will make your evaluators more comfortable and your admissions officers trust you more.
- It is ok if someone you approach for a LOR denies to write it, in fact it is good as they would not have written you the strong letter that you need.
- Don't forget to send a thank you not to the evaluator letting them know how much you appreciate their support!
Share your portfolio/resume with the evaluators to help them write a recommendation highlighting your achievements.