• Letters of Recommendation
    *  This page offers advice to all students.  *
    Eventually, it will happen: you will find a program you want to attend, or you will apply for a job, or you'll be putting together your college applications ... and you'll need a letter of recommendation.  Luckily, teachers and other school staff write these letters all the time.  Here is a list of tips to help you negotiate this process smoothly.
    1. Remember to ask in person, preferably having made an appointment.  Be direct.  Explain what you asking for and why you are choosing this person to do it.  Show appreciation, but don't go overboard.  If your letter-writer requests some information - answers to a few questions about you and what you did in that class, for example - spend time actually thinking before you record your answers.  Proofread them, too, and return the document ASAP.
    2. Check in with the person once in a while.  Be friendly, and be real.  Don't be a stranger; that can make people feel unappreciated.  It also makes it harder for you to offer gentle reminders about the due date.  You are asking this person to think about you, so make sure you are clearly thinking about that person, too.  (For bonus points, drop off an extra thank-you note in September, before the letter is even done.)
    3. When the letter is posted or delivered, send an email thank-you immediately.  
    4. Update the person when you get responses from the programs to which you applied.

    5. Before too much time goes by - and probably right after the final attendance decision is made - write a thank-you note, actually in a card.  Purchasing a card is not the point - a hand-made card is probably even better, if you put some time into it.  The important thing is to give the person something tangible to keep, as a real thank you.  Chances are, the person spent some time on your letter, and you are spending some time in return, to offer gratitude.   (I typically spend hours on each letter.)


    6. An actual gift is optional, and depends on many factors.  For major recommendation tasks, like college applications, giving a thank-you gift is traditional. Again, this has nothing to do with money, and everything to do with putting some thought into "giving back." (Some people give gifts at the winter holidays; others wait till they choose their school; some do gifts in June.  The timing is up to you.)
    7. Read #5 and #6 again.  I’m serious.  Showing appreciation is important!  (Think I’m kidding?  I wrote 19 letters of rec last year, and I received 0 thank you notes or gifts in the spring.  Zero.  As in, no love.  Made me so salty I was tempted to say no to everyone this year…)
Last Modified on June 25, 2023