The time of year is upon us when you may need to ask teachers and others for reference letters for scholarships, awards, jobs, or other purposes. Please note the tips below:
1. When asking for a reference letter, always allow at least 1 full week of time and include the due date in the reference request so the individual writing the request (referee) is aware of the timeline from the beginning.
2. Send only the information for the specific scholarships/jobs you are applying for to save the individual providing the reference time and effort. Send the referee the most specific information about what the award/job requirements are.
3. Always speak in person to the individual from whom you are requesting the reference. If there is no way to speak to the individual in person, be aware that people often don’t check work email after work hours. If you send an email on Tuesday evening, most people won't read it or reply until the next day. That means the scholarship deadline would have to be 7 days from Wednesday. If the request is not emailed until Friday night, it will not be read until Monday morning.
4. If you forget to ask for a reference with at least 1 week's notice, you should contact the award/job supervisor and let them know that this time of year is very busy for writing reference letters. Tell them the referee you’ve asked requires a few more days to complete the letter. Ask them if this is ok. That buys whomever you have asked a bit more time.
5. Remember that you need to ask someone who knows you well, often in more than one aspect of your life, to be a reference for you. Teachers who have taught you in more than one class, or who have taught you and been involved in co-curricular clubs or sports with you are often good choices. Always ask someone with whom you have a positive relationship.
In summary, remember that people you are asking to provide references are very busy. They need concise information, up front, with a clear timeline. It takes approximately 1-2 hours of uninterrupted time to write an effective, personalized reference letter.