Using Letters of Recommendation for Admissions Purposes

Table of Contents

What is it and why is a letter of recommendation so important?

When it evolves applying to a highly judicious university a students’ grades and activities aren’t enough. Admissions advisers want to get to know a possible student and determine why he or she is the best fit for their university. In this case, a letter of recommendation is a very useful element.

 In brief, a letter of recommendation is a detailed third-person discussion of your qualities, accomplishments, and experiences. It is a critical part of the grad school and MBA application process.

 Admission officers spend a lot of time on reading letters of recommendations, because it truly helps them to understand, who the student is and what he or she can bring to their community. First and foremost, academics, the rigor of courses, class rank, the test scores are checked, but what makes the application come alive and sing for the admissions committee is the ability to understand the student as described in another person’s voice. That’s why letters of recommendations are so important.

What is the first step I should take?

The first step is to think about who you want to ask. Strong recommendations are going to make all the difference. Your recommendations should be current or direct supervisors or senior colleagues, not friends, relatives or colleagues who have not managed you. While the title of those you select is not important, what does matter is that your recommendations have worked closely with you. They should be able to attest to your value as an employee and your accomplishments. They should also be able to speak to your personal qualities in a professional context.

For example, a direct supervisor should be able to provide clear insight into your communication skills, technical aptitude, overall professional performance, and potential career growth.

 Start by creating a list of people you’d like to ask now, but be prepared with a second list of recommendations. There is always a chance that your first choice is unable to write a letter for you. Letters of recommendation that stand out the most are those, whose recommendations seem really invested. Therefore, a scheduling meeting is recommended. While the office appointment, discuss the MID program and why you are applying, share your goals, professional accomplishments, and strengths. Plus, provide the referee with background information file, including:

  • Transcripts
  • Resume/ CV
  • Classes you’ve taken with them
  • Research experience
  • Internships
  • Awards received

 Also be sure to ask them as soon as possible, so they have plenty of time to write a thoughtful letter filled with strong examples.

How should you ask someone to write a letter of recommendation?

Asking to write a letter of recommendation can be the most tricky and awkward part of the process. You should always be considerate of referees’ time and priorities. So as we’ve already mentioned, instead of encountering them in a hallway after class, when they are busy and asking them: “Please, write my letter,” schedule an office appointment to discuss “plans for graduate school.” You don’t even have to mention what you’re going to ask them, say that you would like to discuss your plans for the future, and they may have an idea of what you want to ask. So this gives referee some time to think about it, and space to block off the schedule to make a formal request.

Ask a referee if he or she knows you well enough to write this for you. You don’t want to assume that they know you or that they are willing to write the letter so should give them that choice. Ask about the letter at the beginning of the semester instead of the end of the semester.

In conclusion, here you have several crucial tips on how to ask for letters of recommendations:

  1. Build rapport with who you plan on asking.

        2.Set up a meeting to formally ask for your letters.

  1. Go to the meeting prepared!
  2. Follow up with a handwritten note.
  3. Send reminder emails as necessary.

Good luck with your letters!

About the Author

Barbara Elliott has served in a number of leadership positions throughout his career including College Dean at three Universities and Tenured University Professor. Barbara is a frequent national and international presenter and author. Also, she works as a blogger at