How Do You Guide Your Recommendation Writers?

Recommendation Letters

How Do You Guide Your Recommendation Writers?


So, you figured out who to ask for a letter of recommendation, built the relationship, made the request, and they've agreed to write for you. Great work! Now, how do you make sure you're getting the best recommendations possible?


Your recommenders may be juggling dozens of reference requests every year. That's why it's important to ask early, and to give your recommenders what they need in order to write the strongest letters possible. Prepare an easy less-than-one-page document for each of your recommenders that communicates these key pieces of information:


The logistics: Where are you applying? What is the due date? How is the recommendation to be submitted?

Your application: What is the personal narrative for your application? What are you highlighting and how are you presenting yourself? Give your recommender a sense of the broader context of your application so that they can write the most relevant and complimentary letter possible.

Highlights of your relationship: You know your recommenders like you - now give them ammunition they need in advocating for you. For teachers, remind them of your grades in their classes, along with any particularly important projects you may have done. For coaches or other community leaders, reiterate your contributions and accomplishments with in your shared organization.

The specific value of the letter: If you want your recommender to highlight a specific story or character trait, be sure to let them know!


Remember, your recommender is doing you a favor, and you want to make that favor easier, not add more work! Keep your one-pager short and tight, use bullet points and white space, and always express gratitude.