On Asking for a Letter of Recommendation

In answer to a reporter’s query regarding How Should a Student Ask for a Letter of Recommendation, I offered the following advice. 

There are no “secrets” or “tricks” to securing a supportive letter of recommendation. Rather students must think strategically when approaching a potential reference. Above all this means no last minute requests. Instead, students should consult with teachers and advisers about the nature of the recommendation.

For instance, is the letter for a job? An internship? A graduate program? Then the student must consider who, among the various school personnel they interact with, is most qualified to speak to the applicants strengths and/or weaknesses.


My practice is to meet one on one with students who make a timely request (at least 10-14 days prior to the application due date) to discuss the nature of the position, their interests and qualifications, and any additional information regarding the application.

Finally, I also request an updated resume and a draft of the student’s letter of application. This allows me to speak directly to the student’s narrative and provide evidence and support based on my interactions with them.

In short, students should think about who, based on the nature of that position, is best qualified to speak on their behalf; consult with that person early and often; and provide relevant application materials (job description, resume, cover letter, etc.) to a potential reference in a timely manner.




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