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Enrollment Tips

Get the Best Out of Your Letter of Recommendation

By Room 241 Team September 8, 2011

Whether you’re applying for a scholarship, a job position or a top graduate school, it’s crucial that you choose the right person to recommend you. How your strengths are presented can be the deciding factor in nabbing that scholarship to help pay for college, landing that dream job or getting into a master’s degree program.

Rest assured that admissions officers and hiring managers take letters of recommendation seriously as they sort through the piles of applications they received. As the job market continues to become more competitive, any extra advantage you can get will almost certainly prove to be valuable to you later on. A well-written letter of recommendation can give you that edge.

Choosing someone to write a letter of recommendation for you is not as daunting as it seems at first glance. Follow these guidelines to make the process easier, increasing your chances to get that great letter of recommendation to help you.

Give people plenty of time to write it

This is one of the most important tips. We all lead busy lives; asking someone to write you a letter of recommendation is asking someone to craft a document that highlights your strengths. For many people, the letter is not something they dash off, but will be thoughtfully mapped out and revised. As a rule, ask at least three to four weeks in advance of when you need that letter.

Ask the right people

The people writing your letter should be people who know you well and will undoubtedly write positively about your professional or personal background. Don’t choose someone who really doesn’t know you well, and don’t choose someone you think may write negatively (or even neutrally) about you. Choose from the people in your life who you are confident will put you in a positive light. Choosing relatives is generally discouraged — the letter should be from someone unbiased.

Proofread for typos, grammar and fact errors

Once you have asked someone to write that letter of recommendation, you need to also ask that they proofread it. Whoever writes that letter of recommendation for you needs to proofread it multiple times to check for grammatical errors. If they can show you the letter, you can also check for grammatical errors and make sure the letter is sufficient for your needs. Offer to proofread and edit and help them in any way you can — they are doing you a big favor.

Your goal is an excellent letter of recommendation, one which will be a valuable tool in your application for graduate school or a great job after you’ve earned your master’s degree. Letters of recommendation are now more valuable than ever, so ask for that letter with plenty of time to spare, make sure you ask the right people and offer to help. Next thing you know, that great letter of recommendation will be helping you get into the degree program to help you pursue your goals.