Letters of recommendation are statements written by people who know you well. One common misconception is that recommendation letters can be written by family members, however, this is strongly discouraged. Instead, this is a great way for professors, managers, volunteer coordinators, advisors, etc to advocate your accomplishments and successes as a motivated individual.

These letters do not necessarily have to be from professors but it is a good idea to always have the option to contact them in the case you choose to list them as your points of reference. One very important way to do this is to build a relationship with your professor so they can get to know you. This means you should go to office hours frequently and participate in class discussions. Ultimately, the more you are able to stand out both in and out of class, the more your professor will have to say about you in your letter. It’s a good idea to give your references at least a month to write your letter. The last thing you want to end up doing is rushing them and having them write a very poor letter or having them submit a letter past the deadline. To avoid this, here are a few steps to help you secure a letter of recommendation.

The first thing you should do is set up a meeting with your professor or whoever you want to list as your reference. If you have a choice between emailing and meeting your reference in person, it’s more professional to ask in person. Once you are able to meet them, make sure to come prepared with a resume that they can keep. This helps your reference incorporate activities and experiences they may not have known you had previously. It’s also important to give them a copy of all relevant information such as when the letter needs to be sent, what format it needs to be sent in, and of course, what the letter is for. Having all of these materials ready shows your reference you are responsible and serious. As for emailing, make sure to include all the things listed above and to address your reference respectfully.

At the end of the day, your reference will have to take a good amount of time to write you an amazing letter and you want to make sure you are considerate of that. Once your meeting has been completed or your email has been sent, you’ll hopefully receive an answer quickly. In the case they say no, don’t be too alarmed. If you are planning ahead, contact other possible references and continue the above steps. Sometimes, people don’t feel completely comfortable writing a letter if they think they won’t be able to write a good one. On the other hand, if they have agreed to write a letter for you, congratulations! Thank them and be sure to send them gentle reminders to make sure they submit the letter before the deadline.