Letters of Recommendation: How to Ask? Who to Ask?

I began asking for letters of recommendation in early July to make sure that it wasn’t last minute. This way, I was able to give each person a heads up and a few months to write the letter. Many people have never asked someone for a letter of recommendation, or may not know who to ask. So, this is what I did:

1. I thought about the people I’ve worked with; particularly in the last few years, while I’ve been in high school. I paid attention to the people who might have noted my work ethic while in class, or my strengths in areas such as writing, communicating with peers, etc.

2. I wrote down a list of the potential people I would ask. Volunteer coordinators that knew my personality well, my supervisors at work, and teachers that taught a class in which I felt I excelled in, or was able to demonstrate my ability to succeed in college. For example: In May, I took an 11-day, 4 credit, college class at the University of Minnesota. Many people struggled with this. Who wouldn’t? It’s a semesters worth of work in 11 days! To top that off, I still had high school classes and work during this time! I ended the course with an A, and although I didn’t know the professor for that long, I knew he would be able to comment on my determination and hard work. Think about anybody you have been able to work closely with. Even your baseball coach or guitar instructor! It doesn’t always have to be somebody that you worked with in a strict academic setting; colleges want to know what other activities you participated in during high school, and they want to know about your personality.

3. I began e-mailing each individual person. I asked them if they would be willing to write me a letter for my college application process. I told them when I would need it by, and commented on our professional relationship and why I felt they could contribute. Each person replied very quickly, and they were all happy to write a letter on my behalf. If you decide to ask someone you see on a regular basis, you could definitely just talk to them in person, or give them a phone call. Personally I like e-mailing, just because you can tell them exactly what you want in the letter and when you need it by all in writing.

4. As each person finished, they e-mailed back telling me when I could pick it up. I made sure to make it as easy as possible for them, so that all they would have to do is have it all ready to go, and I could just come by and pick it up wherever they needed.

5. After collecting each letter of recommendation, I sent a handwritten thank you card either in the mail, or else I dropped it off in their office if they were located close by. It’s the least you can do for someone who just took the time to write about you!

It’s as simple as that! If you want your to mention something specific, or focus on particular traits, be sure to tell them! If you remember one piece of advice from this… ASK EARLY! You really don’t want to wait until the last minute for this. Especially if you’re asking a teacher, or somebody who probably already got asked twenty times! It’s not a lot of work on your part: you just need to send an e-mail, phone call, or talk to them in person. They should take care of the rest. Good luck!

On another topic… Scholarships! I have to admit that I haven’t applied for any yet, and I’m not sure how many I will end up applying for. Probably as many as I can find that I am eligible for… I really have nothing to lose while applying! I’ve been on the scholarship search for months and months, and haven’t had a ton of luck for my particular situation. I have spoken with my U of M adviser, and he directed me to the site: http://onestop.umn.edu/finances/financial_aid/scholarships/index.html for expert information. This page offers U of M scholarships given by the U, scholarships given by outside organizations to U of M students, and non-university scholarships that you can apply for. I suggest that you contact the college(s) of your choice to obtain possible scholarship opportunities for undergrads! Every college has financial information that you can easily look into or request more information about, as well as some sort of scholarship you can apply for pertaining to that individual college.

While many colleges do offer scholarships specifically for their institution, I have also been looking into general scholarships using online resources such as the most obvious site; http://www.scholarships.com/. During the school year, I plan on talking to my high school counselor about the available scholarships for a person like myself in my community, and for my interests. Sometimes online research can only get you so far; talking to counselors, going to college fairs, and talking to representatives of specific colleges will get you more accurate results, with scholarships that you are more likely to qualify for!

Golden Gophers | Annamarie

Fun Question of the Month: Who is your school mascot?
THE GOPHERS! Agh, they are so cute! How in the world did this come about? Well, I did a bit of research (Yahoo Sports). Supposedly, in 1857, Minnesota was dubbed the “Gopher State” all because of an ironic cartoon that showed nine gophers that had the heads of politicians pulling a locomotive. Later, the University of Minnesota (est. in 1851) took over this name as their official mascot. Later, the Gophers became the “Golden Gophers” when a broadcaster noted the team’s all-gold uniforms, and the name stuck due to their success with national championships and seven Big Ten titles.

Gopher Photo from: http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/sfn/spg07goph


I'm a down-to-earth, “Minnesota Nice” kind of girl with an artistic mind and a passion for saving the world, one recycled item at a time. One thing you must know is that I LOVE animals... emphasis on the LOVE. Especially alpacas. And otters. Actually, come to think of it, there's really no animal that I don't think is adorable. If I could live in a television show, it would be How I Met Your Mother, hands down. I enjoy sweatpants, thunderstorms, loud music, and big, open spaces with mountains, lakes, flowers, and trees; pretty much like the lovely state of Montana! I'm an avid moviegoer, experiential chef, and I collect fortunes from fortune cookies. That's me in a very small nutshell!

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One thought on “Letters of Recommendation: How to Ask? Who to Ask?

  1. I love your article about asking for letters of reference. You did a great job hitting on what many students miss during this process. It is very important to have them remember that the potential reference is doing the student a favor and should respect their time and effort accordingly.

    I would suggest you add one thing to your article if you post it again in the future. Many graduate and professional schools as well as employers have moved to an ONLINE posting for references. It is not likely that professors and employers will actually write a letter on their letterhead and have you pick them up anymore. If they do, it is definitely not the most common method. I recommend to our students that they ask in advance to see if the person is willing to be a reference for them. Then tell them to send their potential reference information about the program of study (schools) for which they will be applying to as well as a resume so they know what else the student has been doing. Finally, let the potential reference know that they will probably be sent an electronic link from the school or potential employer so that they can upload the letters of recommendation directly to their site.

    I hope this information is helpful.

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