6 Ways to Make Asking For Recommendation Letters Less Awkward

Whether you’re applying to college, an internship, or even for a new job, asking for recommendation letters is something we all have to learn to do at some point or another. 

It means you’re moving forward onto bigger and brighter things!

But there is no denying that the process can be intimidating – especially the first time around. Who should you ask for a letter? How do you ask them? When should you do it? 

If you have been asking yourself these questions, here are 6 ways that will help make asking recommendation letters less awkward.

6 Ways to Make Asking For Recommendation Letters Less Awkward

It can be awkward to ask someone to write nice things about you, especially if you don’t know them very personally. Instead of putting it off to avoid feeling awkward, confidently start asking for those recommendation letters early using these 6 steps.  

1. Know The University’s Requirements

Each university has specific requirements; some ask for recommendation letters from 2 core-subject teachers. Others would like your school counselor to write on your behalf, and others don’t require any! The university website is the most accurate source for this information. 

Want to see what I’m talking about? Here is a link to UC Berkeley’s very specific requirements

2. Complete Your “Brag Sheet” This Summer

Most high schools require a “brag sheet” as a preliminary step to requesting letters. This is an opportunity to share specific stories or attributes that you’d like highlighted in your letter. 

Students, work with your parents to complete this over the summer to avoid feeling rushed in the fall. Here is an example “brag sheet” to work from. 

3. Ask Early And In Person (If Possible)

Don’t procrastinate! Have this conversation as early as the end of junior year or within the first few weeks of fall senior semester. Do not ask any later than 4 weeks before your deadline. 

Ideally, ask for your recommendation letters in person. Make an appointment with your teacher before or after class. This shows you respect their time. 

In the case that it is not possible to ask in person, make an appointment to call your teacher.

4. Decide Exactly What You Will Say

The actual ask can feel vulnerable and intimidating, but chin up… You can do it! 

Say something along these lines:

“Your class is one of my favorites because… I feel like I’ve grown a lot, and you’ve gotten to know me well along the way. As you know, college applications are right around the corner and I’m applying to… University. Would you consider writing a letter of recommendation for me? Please let me know what information you need to make it specific and not generic.”  

5. Give A Time-Frame And Follow Up 

Let your recommenders know by what date you’d like them to send the letter or form. 

Tip: this should be a couple of weeks before your actual deadline. 

Follow up your “soft ask” with an “official ask” according to your high school’s preferred procedure (via Naviance or in an email). Offer to provide your “brag sheet”, resume, and/or college essay as a reference point.

6. Send A Token Of Gratitude 

Hand-write a thank you note either once they have completed your recommendation requirement or 2-3 weeks prior to your deadline. Sending the note a few weeks before the recommendation letter is due is a subtle reminder to send the letter. You can also include a gift – a little Starbucks gift card never hurt! 

Don’t Put Asking for Recommendation Letters Off

Don’t put asking for recommendation letters off! Consultants at Bright Futures Consulting are here to help you navigate this and every part of your college process. Please reach out – we’re here to help you! 

If you’re not already matched up with a Bright Futures counselor, you can learn about our experts who are ready to work with you here.

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