Regardless of who you end up asking for a letter of recommendation, it’s important to make sure that whoever you ask has experience working with you or understands the type of work you do. They need to be able to talk highly of you on paper.
Furthermore, you need to respect their time. Give them an opportunity to write a strong letter by providing them at least 2 weeks to write the letter, an up-to-date resume and an extra summary of your accomplishments.
If you are an amazing student, whoever writes a letter for you wants to do it well. Give them as much material and time to write a killer letter. Afterwards, send a handwritten thank you note to show your appreciation.
Asking a mentor to write you a letter of recommendation can be a little nerve-wracking but trust me the mentor will be flattered. Mentors are people in your life who you turn to for help and cheer you on to achieve more. You might have formal mentors through organizations or informal mentors through networking and life experience. Regardless, they are an invaluable resource. They have seen you through your ups and downs. I encourage everyone to find at least one good mentor. They make all the difference. (Learn more about how to find a mentor here.)
You want to be thoughtful about the professor you ask to write you a LOR. Choose professors with whom you were actively engaged in the class and know you by name. It’s important to develop a relationship with your professor first before you ask them to write a LOR. Sometimes professors prefer to have you for at least 2 classes before they agree to write one for you. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but use it as a measurement.
Unless it was a summer internship, try to use employers with whom you have worked for at least 6 months and can write about your growth on the job. Again, it’s important to choose an employer that you have a close relationship with. They need to be able to talk favorably about your work ethic and other exemplary characteristics. If your employer barely remembers your name, then move on. (If you need help balancing school and work check out my other article here.)
It doesn’t have to be your official employer either. If Person X hired you but Person Y manages your day-to-day activities and has more interactions with you then you should probably ask Person Y for a LOR.
#4 Student organization leaders
If you are very active in your student organization for at least 2 semesters, then you can ask the student org leader to write you a letter of recommendation. If the current student org leader changes by the time you need a LOR, ask the former leader who has the most amount of experience working with you. (It’s still professional if they were a former leader of an organization.)
What’s important to remember is that your participation in the organization needs to be genuine and consistent. Whoever is writing the letter for you needs something to write about. If you only showed up occasionally and no one really missed you then you probably won’t get a good LOR (or one at all).
#5 Previous scholarship sponsors
It’s important to keep up with your previous scholarship sponsors. If you talk with them regularly and keep them up to date about how you are progressing and some of your accomplishments, they would be more than willing to write you a letter of recommendation to win more scholarships!
#6 Religious leaders
If you are active in your faith and you participate heavily then asking your religious leader for a letter of recommendation is completely appropriate. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the Rabbi or Bishop or Imam directly either. If you are involved in the youth ministry then ask one of the leaders in the youth ministry. If you are more involved in the women’s group or you run the daycare program in church ask one of those leaders respectively.
The point is to find someone who is familiar with your contribution to the organization and can speak about what you have done for the religious community. Obviously, it will be in the context of a religion and the scholarship sponsors will know that you prescribe to a certain faith, but that doesn’t disqualify your experience. (Obviously, if you feel uncomfortable with revealing your faith through a letter of recommendation, then don’t ask a religious leader.)
#7 Volunteer leaders
Let’s say you’ve been volunteering with Habitat for Humanity for the past 5 years or at the local food bank for some time, then asking the project leader or manager to write you a letter of recommendation is completely realistic. Whoever you ask need to be familiar with your contribution. The tricky thing about getting these people to write a LOR is that it’s all volunteer based so they might not be consistent enough to see your contribution or you might not be consistent enough to leave an impression. Regardless, community leaders who talk about how you’ve benefited the community can go a long way with scholarship sponsors.
There is such a thing as a bad letter of recommendation. Bad letters of recommendation have been written before and the worst part about it is that you’ll never know. The intention is rarely ever malicious. After all, if someone doesn’t know you well enough or doesn’t believe you deserve a letter of recommendation, they just won’t write you one.
A bad letter of recommendation is written when there is no relationship with the person writing the letter. The letter will sound generic at best and scholarship sponsors will see right through it. This is why it’s important to have a relationship with whoever is writing you the letter so they can make it come to life with personal experiences and interactions with you.
If you found this article helpful, please pass it along. Who did you ask for a letter of recommendation? Let me know in the comment section below. As always, if you have any questions you can ask them here or in the comments section!