Woman thinking of asking for a reference letter

The demand for educated people is stronger than ever before, and sometimes, even a bachelor degree is not enough for future career advancement. Some companies understand the importance of its employees’ career growth even sponsor them to go back to school. One important element of any college/university application is a letter of reference, or more frequently described as a letter of recommendation. Ace-up has summed up some frequently asked question to guide you through the process of requesting character reference letters:

How does a letter of recommendation for a Bachelor degree differ from the one for Master degrees?

One thing that applies to both types of letters is that it should be a good character reference letter: it should help personalize your application and tell a story about you. It brings a more likable side along with the “drier” parts of your application (grades, awards, activities and other accomplishments).

What should I ask for in my recommendation letter?

Study the requirements of your particular degree, as one degree might prefer academic potential over personality traits or work experience, and vice versa. Sometimes valuable connections to certain communities can also make the recommendation letter stand out.

Who should I ask to write a letter of recommendation?

First and foremost, the letter's author must know you very well as a person and can give specific anecdotes about you. Second, ask around to see who has strong writing skills and had previously written successful reference letters. It's also recommended, if possible, to find someone who is well-known in the communities of the college/university you are applying to: an “in-house” person can bring a much stronger voice in your letter of reference.

How many letters are required?

It depends on the program. In most cases, this information should be included on the college/university’s website. If not, contact the admission office via e-mail and/or phone.

When should I ask for the letter?

Timing is crucial: the person who is about to write your letter should have enough time to learn about you. You should also take into account the author's schedule, as they could be busy writing other recommendations as well. Don’t wait until the last minute: it's best to ask for a recommendation letter at least one month before your application deadline.

How do I request a character reference letter?

The best form of request is in person. Ask your colleague, boss, or teacher for a time to meet up over coffee. Emails are usually perceived as distant and immature.

How you ask is also important. Start by telling them how much they have contributed to your growth and/or interest in your desired field: you should convince them that they are the best person who can help you with the letter. If you show your genuine intent, they will definitely help you with all their heart.

Remember, a letter of recommendation can be strong AND weak. Never compromise your future if you see that the letter was written in a generic manner (as supposed to strong and compelling). Simply search for another person to write you a letter.

If you're looking to enhance your college application in general, try seeking help from a life coach or career coach from Ace-up. Sometimes when we work on something too long, we are prone to judge our work subjectively: use a professional career counselor who can judge your application objectively and make it the best it can be.

Check out Ace-up's Coaches Profile