How to Get a Great Reference Letter

February 13, 2024

A reference letter is a letter in which someone assesses another person's skills and capabilities, usually in a positive way. They are often necessary when applying for college, a job, or a scholarship.

It is important to ask someone who knows you well to write a reference letter for you. If you aren’t sure about asking someone, politely ask if she or he feels comfortable recommending you. This way you will avoid having weak letters of recommendation that do not fully show your value.

Don’t be shy about asking for a reference letter. Remember that whoever you ask had to ask for reference letters themselves at one time.

Writing a good letter takes time. Request a reference letter at least a month before you absolutely need it.

Schedule an appointment with your potential references. Tell them about your accomplishments and participation in class or on the job. Remind them about specific projects or work you are proud of. Talk to them about your plans for the future. Provide them with a résumé that highlights your extracurricular activities, accomplishments, and goals.

Make sure your references know the deadline for your application and follow up with them a week or so before your reference letter is due. You want to be sure that your reference letter will be sent on time. You may also want to provide pre-addressed, stamped envelopes and additional copies of forms or documents that may be needed to append to your letter.

Send a handwritten note or email to thank everyone who writes a reference letter on your behalf. Once you get a job offer, scholarship, or college acceptance, let your references know and tell them how much you appreciate their support.

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