Request a Letter of Recommendation

Two students sit in an auditorium holding cellos.

Sibling scholars, Lisa (Fulbright recipient, 2017) and Stephen (NASA Space Technology Graduate Research Opportunities grant recipient, 2019) Gagnon.

Letters of recommendation are often essential to achieving funding opportunities. Asking someone to write a letter on your behalf can seem daunting, here are some tips and resources to be successful.

Who can you ask for a letter of recommendation?

Oftentimes, the first question you might ask yourself regarding a letter of recommendation is "who should I ask to write on my behalf".

The answer to that questions is different for everyone. Oftentimes, letters for academic scholarships are written by professors, however, they can also be written by coaches, managers, advisors, etc.

When deciding who you should ask to write on your behalf, consider the following and choose the person(s) who most closely meet this criteria:

  • Is this person familiar with my academic work?
  • Have I maintained a professional relationship with this person?
  • Have I taken multiple courses with this person? Did I do well in those courses?
  • Is this person aware of my strengths both inside and outside the classroom?


Writing a letter?

Visit our Write a Meaningful Letter of Recommendation page for tips.

Timeline for Requesting a Letter of Recommendation



Two months before the letter is due:

Begin to think about who could potentially write on your behalf. Keep in mind the criteria above.

Six weeks before the letter is due: 

Reach out to your potential recommender(s) to ask them to write on your behalf. Be sure provide the context for which they will be writing (i.e., graduate school, a job, a scholarship).

Four weeks before the letter is due:

If someone has agreed to write a letter, set up a time to meet and discuss the specifics. Be sure to provide copies of the following (ask your recommender if they prefer digital or hard copies in advance of your meeting):

  • Your resume/CV.
  • Your academic transcript.
  • Your most recent written work, specifically work that highlights your academic interests.
  • Your personal statement/statement of purpose for the specific application they are writing for. This can help them tailor their letter to share your most relevant strengths and goals.
  • The date and address for when/where the letter is due.

One week before the letter is due:

Remind your recommender via email, but do not send more than one reminder.

Once the deadline passes:

If your recommender has not submitted the letter, you should send a follow-up email or visit their office.

After the letter is written:

Thank your recommender. You can do this in person or by email, depending on the nature of the letter. If they helped with multiple applications, a more personal thank you is appropriate. Be sure to also follow-up with your recommender regarding the outcome of your application.

The Do's and Don'ts of Requesting a Letter of Recommendation


  • Choose the best person for the task. If you have multiple recommenders who may be able to write on your behalf, ask one that most closely fits the specific application requirements. For example, if you are applying to a science-based graduate program, a professor with whom you’ve had lab and research experience with may be a better fit than a professor with whom you took a humanities course, or a basketball coach.
  • Provide the recommender with the right materials. This will help both of you. The more familiar they are with your work, the stronger the letter will be.
  • Say thank you. Showing your gratitude to the recommender is essential. Recommenders dedicate personal time and energy to writing letters on top of their hectic schedule. This also helps you if you need a letter in the future.


  • Ask your recommender too late. This is important for multiple reasons. First, it can make you look unprofessional if you wait until the week or even days before. Second, allowing the recommender adequate time to write can ensure that they have time to create the strongest version of the letter. Additionally, recommenders are busy people, a week or two simply may not allow them enough time.
  • Ask a professor who is not familiar with your work. In order to put forward the best possible letter, make sure you choose a writer who can most specifically highlight your strengths. Also, it’s best not to ask a professor whose class you performed poorly in.
  • Send multiple reminders. One reminder regarding the upcoming deadline is enough.

Additional Resources