If you're in college, you've probably had to apply for something that required a reference letter. No, problem right? You're awesome which means this shouldn't be a problem. Yet, requesting a reference letter seems to be one of the most stressful things we must do in college. Here are 5 things that you need to do before asking for a reference letter
- Gather all the information
Make sure that you have a solid knowledge of the reference letter requirements. Does it have to be a sealed and signed envelope? Will it be mailed in or submitted via an online form? How long does your referee need to write it? Anticipate every possible question a referee could ask you and know the answers to be able to expedite the process. Having all the information shows the referee you probably did your research, and they will be more likely to write a better letter.
2. Get your transcripts ready
If you're asking for an academically related reference letter, some professors asks for your transcripts. Sometimes referees is going to be asked to rank you compared to other students. Make it easier for that referee and supply them with this information upon asking them to write your letter.
3. Edit your CV or resume
Almost our referees have asked me to provide a copy of my CV. A powerful reference letter will speak to more than just your academic performance. By giving your referee your CV that can speak to all the other amazing things that you simply do on campus. After all, fundamental essentials things that are going to set you apart in the sea of applicants, not because you and 126 other students got an A.
4. Create a point form listing of the things you would like the referee to highlight
I always prefer to read the criteria for the letter and supply my referee with a point form listing of my experiences and accomplishments that match. Remember that your referee is probably writing a lot of other letters, on top of completing their teaching, research, as well as their personal lives. Overall this can be a win-win because it ensures that what YOU want to get highlight gets highlighted, it speeds up the process for your referee.
- Evaluate your referee options
People will often fall into the trap of asking the most senior person they know to write them a reference letter. Just keep in mind that the strongest reference letters range from people who know you best. Someone such as the masters student who supervised you closely in the lab, or the supervisor who helped you receive promoted. A heartfelt letter from someone who is “less important” will always be better than a detached and impersonal letter from somebody that is “more important”
Asking for a reference letter will sometimes be the most stressful things you do. Don't forget that professors write more reference letters than you are able to count in a year. Make the process as easy as possible, and don't forget to thank them to take the time to help you advance along your trip!