Letters of Recommendation

Requesting a Letter of Recommendation

Throughout your time at ICS, you may and often will run into situations where you will need to request a letter of recommendation or reference letter. Whether this is for an internship, job, college, scholarship, volunteer position, summer program, etc., you quite frequently are required to request letters to recommend you for such opportunities. Below I have included some information to consider before asking for a letter. 

Whom should I ask to write a letter of recommendation?

Start with school faculty (teachers, counselor, coaches, administrators, etc.) that you have interacted with often, taken classes from where you have received good grades, been involved with via activities, or just have built a good relationship with. The best letters of recommendation, the ones that will really bolster your case for being accepted to the program you are applying for, come from school staff who know a lot about you and your abilities. For example, a letter from a teacher who writes about your unique skills, academic abilities, and motivation is more influential than a letter that says that you received an "A" in his/her class and is pleasant to be around. 

If you approach someone about writing a letter for you and they seem reluctant to do so, they may be trying to politely tell you that they can’t write a strong letter for you. Accept this and consider others you might ask. Having a poor or lukewarm letter of recommendation as part of an application can be potentially damaging to your chances of being accepted. School staff are not required to write letters of recommendation and some may not be able to write at certain times per year due to other requirements in their job. Please seek out a different staff member for a recommendation if the person you ask is unavailable. 

Additionally, for college recommendations, make sure to first check out college-specific admission requirements to identify what kind of recommenders they are looking for. Keep in mind that you will likely need to waive your right to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) in order for school staff to submit recommendations for you. It is quite standard to do this and it means that you won’t be able to review your letters of rec. 

When do I ask for a letter?

For college recommendations, you will ask your recommenders 6 weeks before your 1st application deadline that needs recommendations. This seems early, but teachers and counselors will be writing MANY letters during the college application months and we need extra time to meet all deadlines for every senior. Students may start asking for college letters of recommendation starting in September of their senior year. Do NOT ask during your junior year. 

For non-college recommendations, a minimum of 3-4 weeks before the deadline is required. We request that students ask far in advance so that school staff have enough time to write meaningful letters on your behalf. Do not wait until the last minute and please avoid asking on short notice. 

How do I go about asking?

See the recommender in person. Make an appointment to see the person you are planning to ask. When asking, be formal, well-spoken, polite, respectful of their time, and genuinely appreciative. You are making a request, not a demand. Teachers and counselors are not required to write for you, so be kind! Students need to make their own formal requests for letters of recommendation in-person and parents should NOT be requesting them for their students. Do not ask for recommendations via email. Students should never assume that a recommender will be able to write for them and should not invite a teacher, counselor, or staff member to write a recommendation without talking with that person first. Please check-in with your College and Career Counselor if you have questions around the process. 

What do I give the professor when I ask for a recommendation?

For college recommendations, let your teachers know when you will be submitting your BBE packets to them. BBE information will be given out in the junior and senior meetings. Please disregard unless you are a senior.  

For non-college recommendations, feel free to ask your recommender what kind of information they will need to be able to write you a letter. Students may consider giving their recommender a copy of their resume, activity list with descriptions, etc. Feel free to check out the document list below for options. 

Make sure your recommenders are aware of deadlines, what they will be submitting specifically for you (letter, reference form, etc.), and how to submit the recommendation. Most recommendations will be submitted either by mail or electronically so please make sure to give your recommenders all the information they will need. 

After the letter has been written, what should I do?

Thank them again for all of the hard work they have done to help support you! Let your recommenders know if you are chosen for the college, job position, summer program, scholarship, etc. They will appreciate knowing the outcome, and hearing how it all turned out will help them with future letters that they may write for other students. 

Recommendation Preparation Materials 

Check with your recommenders to identify if they need additional documents to write your letter. If they do ask for additional information, check out examples below for ideas.