Whether you’re currently applying at a university, a study abroad program or maybe even a scholarship, chances are you’ve been asked to submit a recommendation letter. These sealed and confidential letters are from credible authorities with only one main subject in mind: you.
Maybe you’ve wondered what more could it be than being just another requirement to work and pass within a school’s deadline. Well, this piece of paper can be the golden ticket you’re waiting for so better brush up on what it entails to get the best possible letter.
So what’s it for anyway?
What most students don’t realize when they’ve requested for a recommendation letter is the fact that such a document can speak volumes about one’s character and what others consider to be your greatest assets. It gives a more detailed account of who you are compared to the other documents submitted along with it. Oftentimes, universities and program administrators rely on these letters to get a glimpse of your leadership skills, how you handled conflicts or responded to challenges, what you are known for at your current school or organizations, and other notable traits.
Where should I request for one?
If the person to approach isn’t already stated in the guidelines, think first of all the teachers and mentors who wouldn’t hesitate to shed some light on everything you’ve worked hard on. These are definitely the best people to approach for help.
If you’ve joined and won contests before, you might want to ask your former coaches. Advisers of the organizations that you’ve actively been a part of would also be enthusiastic to put your positive reputation into writing. Just in case the letter would have to be written by someone who doesn’t know you too well (e.g.: the school principal or dean), one option to consider is to ask the teachers you know to write descriptions about you that would serve as the basis for the final letter’s content.
It’s a must to be polite and specific as possible when requesting for a recommendation letter; plus points if you can provide details on the following as a guide:
- To whom should the letter be addressed?
- (If it is a program) What is the program all about?
- What is it about you that you would like to be remembered? (Specific awards, distinctions, etc.)
- Why do you think you would qualify?
- In what ways would you become an asset to the institution/program?
If you feel uncomfortable listing your own achievements, remember that this process is for people who have never met you in person before so having a recommendation letter will definitely help introduce you to them. This is the most appropriate opportunity to have these victories and talents “announced.”
Lastly, don’t forget to thank the people who helped write this valuable document. It would be a nice gesture to offer doing a few hours of volunteer service or assistance in their office, or maybe handing them a small token and letter of gratitude for the time they set aside to write all those nice things about you. This is another way of reassuring them that they made the right choice in recommending you and that wherever you go, you will always show humility and professionalism.