Reference letters are a critical part of your future academic and professional endeavors.
I view writing reference letters as an essential part of my job as a professor. I want my students to be successful and I want their success to reflect well on their time spent at Trevecca Nazarene University. Reference letters may be for graduate school admissions, scholarships, internships, or future employment. Below are a few thoughts for any student contemplating requesting a reference letter:
- Plan ahead! Submit requests for letters at least 2-3 weeks in advance of when they are needed. While some job applications may have a very short submission window, putting off letter requests until the very last minute leaves a negative impression on your letter writer and most likely will cause the quality of your letter to suffer. Personally, I will not write letters for the purposes of a graduate program application with less than three weeks’ notice. I want time to do my best for you.
- You should only request letters from referees who know you well. The thoroughness of your referee’s explanation of your qualities and qualifications will make a large impression on the reader. Choose reference letter writers who have enough knowledge of your work to provide this critical insight. Regardless of how well the referee knows you, you should provide a copy of your resumé or vitae for their convenience. Additionally, if you have completed any essays or developed a portfolio to which your referee could refer in his/her letter, include that as well.
- When requesting a letter, be detailed in explaining the purpose of the letter. If the letter is for a graduate school application, provide a URL describing the degree program requirements. If it is for a job application/employment, provide the URL of the description of the position for which you are applying. If it is for a scholarship application, send a scholarship description along with your request.
- Be sure your referee knows his/her deadline for submitting the letter.
- Be sure your referee knows how the letter should be submitted. Should it be sent via U.S. Postal mail or electronically? Provide your referee a mailing address, or if electronically, provide either an email address to whom it should be emailed or a URL to where it should be uploaded.
- As a courtesy, provide your referee with the inside address for your recommendation letter exactly as you would like it to appear. If someone were sending ME a letter about you, I would expect it to appear similarly to this:
Dr. Thomas Lerew
Director of Choral Activities
School of Music & Worship Arts
Trevecca Nazarene University
333 Murfreesboro Road
Nashville, TN 37210
To those requesting a letter from me, know that I am thrilled to be advocating for your success. Please include all of the items above in your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. I pray my recommendation letter is helpful in bringing this exciting next step of God’s plan for your life to fruition.
Another useful resource may be Shannon Craig-Snell’s article on InsideHigherEd.com.