A letter of recommendation is more than just a formality, it’s a personal endorsement of your character, achievements, and potential. From selecting the right referrer to personalizing your request, along with clarifying the purpose and providing a portfolio, each step is vital.

With these simple steps, you’ll be able to secure a strong letter of recommendation that will bolster your application and help you stand out in a competitive field.

A college recommendation letter is an endorsement that usually comes from a teacher, counselor, or academic advisor who knows you well. It’s part of a college application and serves to vouch for your abilities and character.

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The letter should:

  • Provide a personal testimony of your qualifications for college.
  • Detail your academic and extracurricular accomplishments.
  • Offer anecdotes that demonstrate your skills and work ethic.
  • Explain why you would be a good fit for the college or program.

The letter should be personalized, well-structured, and free of clichés. It’s important to be honest and provide a balanced view that includes both strengths and areas for growth.

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Your Name

Your Position

Your Company/Organization

Your Address

City, State, Zip Code

Your Email Address

Your Phone Number


Recipient’s Name

Recipient’s Position

Recipient’s Company/Organization

Recipient’s Address

City, State, Zip Code

Dear “Recipient’s Name,”

I am writing to recommend “Candidate’s Name” for “position, scholarship, program, etc.” As “Your Position” at “Your Company/Organization,” I have had the pleasure of working with “Candidate’s Name” for “time period” and have witnessed their remarkable skills and contributions firsthand.

“Candidate’s Name” has consistently demonstrated exceptional abilities in “specific skill or area,” and their “another skill or trait” has been invaluable to our team. For instance, during “specific project or task,” “Candidate’s Name” showed “specific example of performance or achievement,” which led to “positive outcome.”

Moreover, “Candidate’s Name’s” ability to “another example of skill or trait” has not only improved our “specific aspect of work or project,” but also fostered a positive and collaborative environment among the team. “Another personal story or example.”

I am confident that “Candidate’s Name” will bring the same level of excellence and dedication to “Recipient’s Company/Organization” as they have shown here at “Your Company/Organization.” “Candidate’s Name” is a reliable, talented, and driven individual who would be an asset to any team.

Please feel free to contact me at “Your Phone Number” or “Your Email Address” if you need further information or have any questions regarding “Candidate’s Name’s” qualifications.

Thank you for considering this recommendation.


Your Signature (if sending a hard copy)

Your Typed Name

Here are some more examples of a well written letter of recommendation:

1) A sample college recommendation letter from a graduate student instructor at the University of California, Berkeley, endorsing a student’s application for an ethics program.

2) A strong sample letter of recommendation for a residency program, written by a clinical faculty member with extensive experience in medical education, highlighting the candidate’s clinical skills, preparedness, and teaching abilities.

When asking for a letter of recommendation, it’s crucial to provide your recommender with enough context and support to write a compelling letter. Here’s your guide on how to ask for a letter of recommendation:

Select the Right Referrer

Choose someone who has a thorough understanding of your work ethic, achievements, and character. This could be a professor who’s taught you in multiple courses, a supervisor who has observed your professional growth, or a mentor who has guided you.

Personalize Your Request

Approach them in a manner that shows respect for their time and expertise. Explain why you specifically value their endorsement and how it could influence your application.

Clarify the Purpose

Clearly articulate the purpose of the recommendation. Whether it’s for graduate school, a job, or a scholarship, provide details about the institution or organization and the qualities they are looking for in candidates.

Related: Academic Goals: How to Succeed in High School, College, and Beyond

Provide a Portfolio

In addition to your resume, consider providing a portfolio of your work or a brief summary of your relevant projects and accomplishments. This can give your recommender concrete examples to draw from.

Discuss Your Goals

Share your career or academic goals and aspirations. This helps the recommender align the letter with your future plans and present you as a forward-thinking candidate.

Set Clear Deadlines

Give your recommender a clear timeline, including when you will follow up and the final deadline for submission. This helps prevent any last-minute rushes and ensures your application is complete on time.

Offer Assistance

Let them know you are available to meet or discuss further if they need more information or have questions. This can also be an opportunity to remind them of specific instances where you demonstrated key skills or qualities.

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Express Sincere Gratitude

Regardless of the outcome, thank your recommender for considering your request. A handwritten note or a personal email can go a long way in showing your appreciation.

Follow-Up Thoughtfully

After sending a reminder, if you haven’t heard back, it’s appropriate to follow up. However, always be respectful of their time and other commitments.

As we wrap up the guide on how to ask for a letter of recommendation, remember that this process is as much about building relationships as it is about obtaining a document. 

The sincerity of your request, the clarity of your purpose, and the gratitude you express will not only ensure you receive a compelling letter but also reinforce the bonds you’ve formed with your mentors.

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Can I ask a TA for a letter of recommendation?

Yes, you can ask a teaching assistant (TA) for a letter of recommendation. It’s best to choose a TA who has had ample opportunity to observe and evaluate your work and contributions. However, some institutions may not value a TA’s letter as highly as one from a full-time professor.

How to ask a teacher for a letter of recommendation?

Approach a teacher who knows you well, someone who has observed you closely throughout your coursework. Provide them with your resume and a list of your achievements both in and out of college well in advance of your deadline. Include the details of the program or job you’re applying to.

How to ask for a letter of recommendation via email?

Start with a personal greeting. Briefly mention how you know each other, and express why you’re reaching out to them specifically. Explain the role or opportunity you’re applying for, and ask if they would be comfortable providing a recommendation for you. Attach your resume for their reference, and thank them for their time and consideration. Offer to provide further information or meet to discuss the request in more detail if they prefer.

How early should I ask for a letter of recommendation?

It’s best to ask at least one month in advance. This gives the recommender enough time to craft a thoughtful letter.

How do you ask for a letter of recommendation from someone you haven’t spoken to in awhile?

Reconnect with a brief update about yourself and politely inquire if they would be comfortable writing a recommendation, acknowledging the time that has passed.

How to get a letter of recommendation if you don’t know anyone?

Consider asking teachers, employers, or community leaders who may be familiar with your work ethic or achievements, even if you haven’t had extensive interactions.

Who should you not ask for a letter of recommendation?

Avoid asking family members, friends, or anyone who cannot speak objectively about your professional or academic capabilities.

How do I title an email asking for a letter of recommendation?

Use a clear and professional subject line, such as “Request for Letter of Recommendation.”

Can you ask an online professor for a letter of recommendation?

Yes, you can ask an online professor, especially if they are familiar with your academic performance and participation.

How to follow up on a letter of recommendation after no response?

Send a polite reminder email, reiterating the deadline, and expressing your appreciation for their consideration in writing the letter.