Preparing for Letters of Recommendation

Many graduate schools and jobs require letters of recommendation before they will seriously consider you as a candidate for admission, scholarships or employment. A great letter of recommendation can really make the difference. Conversely, a poor letter can also make a negative difference. So in order to get the best letter possible, you need to do a little work first.

Sure you know that you need to tell your recommender exactly what you are applying for, what they are looking for in an applicant, and deadlines for submission. You know you have to provide an addressed, stamped envelope for the letter and that you have to write a thank you note to your recommender, but there is more than just that. Getting a good letter of recommendation starts with the beginning of your relationship with the person and continues potentially indefinitely.


When you walk into each of your college classes, you should look at your professor as someone who could potentially write you a letter of recommendation. Everything you do in the class will give him or her insight into your character, work ethic and personality. If you turn in papers late and don’t really try during class discussion, you will probably get a poor recommendation if you ask for one. On the other hand, if you show up to class, meet all deadlines, and come to office hours when you need help, even if you don’t get the best grade in the class, you may still get a stellar recommendation.


Next, you will need to keep up with this person. Just because you were a conscientious student your freshman year does not mean that your professor will remember you when you are a senior and need a letter of recommendation. So get together for coffee, stop by office hours, or just send him or her an email every once-in-a-while. And don’t limit it to one person. You never know what kind of recommendation you will need, and you may even need several.


Letters of recommendation show your college success and help you gain admittance to graduate school, scholarships, and even job opportunities—so don’t miss out! Follow this advice and you can get great letters of recommendation.

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