Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are a vital component to obtain for someone at any point in their career. For high school students, it may be a new requirement for them to investigate. Many post-secondary options, including colleges, vocational schools, and employment require some form of a recommendation letter. How can students learn to obtain a proper recommendation?

There are several important factors. For example, obtaining a letter of recommendation involves professionalism and some etiquette. Students will want to find out first what they need the recommendation for and the requirements necessary. This will allow the students to tailor who they ask for a letter. Once they figure out who the letters are for, they can begin the task of finding professionals in their life to ask.

Ask people:

·         The students have a professional not personal relationship with.

·         That shows the student’s strengths or what skills college/job are looking for in their requirement.

·         The student has known for some time.

·         That each know or see the student from a different perspective; from school, a job, service learning…etc

Types of people the student can ask:

·         Teachers (current or former)

·         High school administrators

·         Service Learning supervisors

·         Extracurricular (clubs, sports) supervisors

·         Employment supervisors or managers

People to try and avoid asking for a letter of recommendation:

·         Friends

·         Family

Process for asking the person:

·         Give the chosen person a specific deadline when the letter needs to be completed.

·         Tell the person what you need the letter of recommendation for: college requirement, graduate school, career-oriented employment.

·         Give copy of resume.

·         Ask to use them as a professional reference.

·         Once they have given the student the completed letter, send a thank you note.

Most places ask for more than one. Thus, it is more well-rounded for students to ask different professionals in their life that see them using various skills they will need at their college or employment. A good rule of thumb for how long a student can use a letter of recommendation for is about 3-4 years. At that point, they can find a new one which is an update on their skills as a professional and student. Understanding the process to ask for one, and who to ask, are important skills for students as it is something they will need most of their lives. In addition, it is a necessity whether they plan to attend graduate or post-graduate school or continue working in a career of their choice.


Stephen Keck is a graduate student in School Counseling at Florida Gulf Coast University in my final year. He obtained his Bachelor's degree in Film at The Ohio State University. His goal is to advocate and help students achieve their goals.

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