Most likely, there will come a time in your academic career where you will need a letter of recommendation. This can be an intimidating experience, but we have collaborated with the STEM Leaders Program to create this guideline for all steps of the process. Find the link to advising hours and other valuable resources at the bottom of this page to receive help and answer any questions that you may have!

When are letters of recommendation most commonly requested?
  • Applications for undergraduate research programs

  • Graduate school applications

  • Study abroad program applications

  • Various scholarship applications

 

Who should you ask for a letter of recommendation?
  • Ask someone who:

    • You worked closely with, including a job supervisor, an internship coordinator, a research mentor, someone who oversaw a volunteer experience, a club or academic advisor, a professor that knows you well, etc.

    • Is able to discuss personal and professional characteristics, such as your capacity to work independently and collaboratively, your academic and leadership skills, etc.

    • Is able to effectively evaluate your past performance

    • Is able to comment on your potential for success

      • Note - Do not ask your family members. This could create a conflict of interest!

How do I get to know a letter writer (including over Zoom)?

Here are some steps to building a relationship with a professor or mentor who you might want to request a letter of recommendation from at some point:

  • Introduce yourself to professors, advisors, or whoever you are interested in developing a relationship with.
  • Ask questions in class, during office hours, or over email often! This way, they begin to remember your name. 
  • Actively participate in various events where someone could get to know who you are (club events, volunteer events, seminars, etc.)
  • Have your video on in classes, speak up during class, make comments!

 

How should you ask for a letter of recommendation?
  • Start asking earlier rather than later. Late notice is really inconvenient for busy people
    • Don’t wait until the last minute to ask your writer. There is a common expectation of 2-3 weeks to complete a good letter of recommendation.
    • Don’t be afraid to follow up with reminders that you are looking for a letter of recommendation if you don’t hear back after the first email. 
    • Please be considerate of their schedule, give tons of notice for the final deadline that your letter is due. 
    • Never list people as writers without a prior agreement with them.
  • You can ask for a letter of recommendation in person or over email. If you ask in person, you should follow-up with an email outlining details about the thing you’re applying for (usually summarizing what you discussed in person), deadlines, exactly how the letter writer should submit their letter, and any other important content you want the writer to include. 
  • If you ask over a formal email, you should attach a cover letter, resume, unofficial transcripts, and a copy of your statement of purpose or personal essay. In addition, you should include the content outlining in the following section.
What information should you provide to a letter writer?
  • Who?
    • Let the writer know who to address the letter to and what it’s for.
  • What?
    • Be clear on what you want the letter writer to highlight about you. Because most programs require more than 1 letter, make sure each writer highlights different aspects of your professional, personal, and academic performance/accomplishments.
  • Where?
    • Let your writer know where to submit the letter, include the submission link.
  • When?
    • Include the specific time and date the application is due as well as time zones!
  • Why?
    • Let them know your career aspirations and/or why you are applying to the program/scholarship.
    • Explain why you chose them to write the letter. Give them examples of reasons why you think they can attest to your skills. 

 

How should you organize the process?
  • Create an Excel sheet with the name of the application, links to their webpage info, exact instructions, due date (including time & time zone), and other criteria.
  • Include a list of who you’ve asked to write your letters (and when you asked them) so that you know when to follow up with a reminder or thank you message.

 

Send reminders and thank you letters
  • Send a friendly reminder
    • Remind the writer about the due date if you haven’t heard back or if you notice they haven’t submitted your application. Especially if they have agreed, please remind them 5 days before, 3 days before, or the day of!
  • Say thank you the 1st time
    • After your letter is submitted, send a thank you card or email. They committed time and effort to your success!
  • Say thank you the 2nd time
    • After you hear the news about your outcomes, send updates! 
      • Regardless of the outcome, say thanks again. 
  • Stay connected with your letter writers, even after you graduate!
    • Add them on professional social media sites, including LinkedIn.
    • Send them email updates about your life and ask them how they’re doing.

Recommendation Request Email Example

Kindly provided by the STEM Leaders Program

 

Subject line: [Your name]: Recommendation Request 

Dear [Recommenders name], 

I am currently in the process of applying to scholarships and I am trying to gather a few letters of recommendation. I will be applying to a scholarship with John Deere in November and because you know me well as my mentor for the CAS Leadership Academy, I decided to start by asking you. Would you be willing to write me a strong letter of recommendation highlighting my leadership record and community involvement? My other references will be able to talk about my academic ability, but you are the only one who really knows how hard I worked on getting out of my comfort zone and overcoming some of the obstacles I faced last term. I was hoping maybe you could talk about how I handle stress and deal with setbacks because those are qualities the selection committee wants to see.  

The application is due Saturday, November 21, 2020, at 11:59 pm. Below I have attached an excel sheet with more information on the scholarship application, my transcripts, resume, and personal essay. If you are able to write for me, you should be receiving an email request allowing you to submit the completed letter.  

Thank you for taking the time to consider my request.  

Best regards,  

[Your name] 

Email Examples:

Subject line: [Your name]: Letter of Recommendation Reminder 

 

Good afternoon [Recommenders name], 

I’m touching base with you about the letter of recommendation I had requested from you earlier this month. I understand you may be busy, but I just wanted to remind you that the letter is due by Saturday, November 21, 2020, at 11:59 pm. Please let me know if you have any additional questions or concerns.  

Thanks again for agreeing to write this letter for me!  

Best regards,  

[Your name] 

Hello [Recommender’s name],  

I wanted to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to write me a letter of recommendation. I greatly appreciate the time and effort you put into it. It is sure to help me during the application process.  

I am currently in the process of waiting to hear back from the scholarship committee. Thank you again, and I will be sure to keep you updated regarding the status of my application.  

Best regards,  

[Your name] 

Good afternoon [Recommender’s name], 

I wanted to update you on the status of my scholarship application. I have heard back from the committee and was awarded the scholarship!  

Thank you for your time and for supporting me as I continue to advance my career. If any other opportunities arise again in the future, I will be sure to reach out to you again. 

Best regards, 

[Your name] 

Resources

  • Come to the Office of URSA’s virtual, drop-in advising hours for help writing your formal email asking your research mentor to write you a letter of recommendation!

  • OSU’s Career Development Center, A110 Kerr Administration Building, Corvallis, OR 97331, Phone: 541-737-4085