How to Request a Reference or Recommendation Letter

Many students ask me to serve as a reference and/or to write a recommendation letter on their behalf for study-away programs, employment opportunities, and graduate schools. (If the latter topic interests you, see also: Advice on applying to graduate school.) I’m usually very willing to assist students who I already know, as it’s an important aspect of my role as an advisor, and one of the benefits of attending a small liberal arts college. Here’s my advice on how to proceed with me (but be sure to ask other faculty, who may have different preferences or routines).

To request listing me as a reference

  • Send me an email stating that you wish to list me as a reference (which usually means giving someone my name and contact information, in case they wish to call or email me).
  • Include the name of the person or organization that might contact me, and a description and/or weblink about the position or program.
  • If I agree to be listed as your reference, you can list me again in the future, without requesting permission a second time.

To request a recommendation letter

  • Writing a recommendation letter requires a bit more work from both me and you. If you wish to discuss your plans with me, book an appointment on my calendar.
  • Email me your request, and include at least 1-2 paragraphs that answers this question: Why are you and this program a good match for one another?
  • If you already addressed this question in personal essay for your application, feel free to send a draft to me, either in your email or as a Google Doc (be sure to set to Share > Advanced > Anyone can Comment.) Reading your words helps me to tailor my letter for your audience.
  • If you have a resume, also send me a copy so that I can learn more about you.
  • Include clear instructions about the deadline and where to send your letter. Some programs request that I email it directly to them, while others require you to fill out an online form that automatically sends me a link to upload your letter.
  • If you are applying to multiple programs, send me a summary list (or even better, a Google Spreadsheet that we can both view, to help us keep track of instructions and deadlines).
  • If I agree to write a letter on your behalf, my normal practice is to share the text of the letter with you, the student, after I send it. This makes the process more transparent and educational, and also gives you an opportunity to spot factual errors or typos for me to correct in future versions.