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How to get a letter of recommendation for college (email template included) 

You’ve filled out your application. You’ve written, proofread and submitted your personal statement. Now, it’s time to send in your letter of recommendation. If you’re stuck on how to get started, you’ve come to the right place.  

We reached out to Vivian Chan Rendon, Pacific’s director of first-year admission, to learn everything to know about getting a letter of recommendation for college, from what admission counselors are looking for to how to reach out to your teacher or counselor for a letter.  

We also know that sometimes words fail, so we’ve even included an email template that you can send to your potential recommender. Just copy, paste, personalize and send! 

Why are letters of recommendation so important?  

Before we get started, you might be wondering why letters of recommendation are needed in the first place. After all, can’t admission counselors learn everything they need to know from your transcripts, application and essay?  

According to Vivian, letters of recommendation are an important part of evaluating your qualities and potential because they offer additional perspectives and insights.  

“We like letters of recommendation because they offer information from a third-person perspective and from a credible source,” Vivian explains. “For example, if you’re applying as a biology major, a glowing recommendation from your biology teacher will help you stand out. Or a counselor can discuss how they observed your perseverance overcoming challenges in your life.”  

Vivian says this kind of information isn’t usually included in a student’s transcripts or personal essay, so including a letter of recommendation from someone who is familiar with your personal qualities can be a crucial addition to your application.  

Who should I ask for a letter of recommendation? How many do I need? 

Guidelines about who to ask for letters of recommendation and how many to send differ from university to university. At Pacific, we require just one letter of recommendation. We prefer letters to come from teachers or counselors, but other people can send in letters under certain circumstances.  

“If students cannot obtain a letter from a counselor or teacher, they can ask their mentor, coach, supervisor, community leader, someone from their faith community or someone they have volunteered with,” Vivian explains. “But not family and friends.”  

When narrowing down whom to ask for a letter of recommendation, think about who is most familiar with you as a person and can attest to your abilities. For example, if you dedicated long hours in high school to a student volunteer club, you might want to ask your teacher or staff supervisor to write about your leadership skills and desire to serve your community.  

You might also consider asking someone who can speak to your ability to succeed in your academic goals. As Vivian explained before, if you’re applying for a science program, for instance, your science teachers could most accurately assess your skills and preparation in that field. 

How should I ask for a letter of recommendation?  

Now that you’ve determined who you want to ask for a letter of recommendation, it’s time to get organized. Here are a few things to do and know before you make your ask.   

  1. Make a brag sheet to help your recommender out. You’ll want to give your recommender your resume and/or list of accomplishments/achievements to give them inspiration for what to include in your letter. While you are ideally choosing someone who is familiar with your strengths and accomplishments, it’s always helpful for the recommender to have information to reference as they write.  
  1. Make sure your recommender knows deadlines and other relevant information. Along with your brag sheet, make sure to send your recommender the date your letter needs to be submitted. You should also inform them of any special instructions for submitting the letter (you can find more information about Pacific’s process in the “How to submit and final steps” section of this blog post).  
  1. Give your recommender plenty of time. Don’t wait until the last minute to request a letter of recommendation. We recommend reaching out at least two weeks before your letter is due—even earlier if you have time. At Pacific, you can submit your letter after you’ve already submitted your application if you need more time, but you should still aim to get your letter in as soon as possible so your decision is not delayed.  
  1. Be polite and sincere in your request. It’s always best to ask for a letter of recommendation in person, face-to-face. But if that’s not possible, a polite email is also a great option. You can also ask in person and follow up with details over email. Whichever method you choose, be gracious and considerate of your recommender’s time and energy.
  1. Be prepared to write the letter yourself. If your recommender is extremely busy, they might ask you to write the letter of recommendation yourself and let them sign off on it. Or they might ask you to write a draft so they can add to it instead of writing the full letter themselves. Be prepared to go this route, especially if you are asking for a letter with a quick turnaround.  

Letter of recommendation request: email template  

If you’re stuck on what to say, here’s an email template you can use to get started. Just make sure to add your own flair—include why you wanted to ask this specific person and what you hope they can discuss in the letter. If you are close with your recommender, you might also share the impact they have had on your life and why a letter from them would be impactful.  

Dear (Recommender name),  

I hope you’re doing well! I’m reaching out because I am in the process of applying to colleges, and I wanted to ask if you would be willing to write a letter of recommendation on my behalf.  

As my (teacher, counselor, etc.) I was hoping you could attest to my (academic, volunteer, personal) skills and abilities. As your (student, mentee, etc.) I have learned so much from you and would be honored to receive a recommendation from you as I take the next step in my academic career.  

I have attached an updated copy of my resume and details on how to submit to this email. I am hoping to submit my application materials by (date). Thank you for considering my request! If you have any questions, please let me know.  

Best regards, 

(Your name) 

How to submit and final steps 

When you’re ready to submit your letter to Pacific, the easiest way to submit is by emailing it as an attachment to, or emailing it to your assigned admission counselor (you can find your admission counselor based on your location on our website). You can have your recommender send the letter back to you to submit, or they can email it to us directly.  

Finally, after you submit, don’t forget to write your recommender a thank you note! Show your recommender that you appreciate the time and effort they put in to help you shine in your application.   

This article is part of the Before You Submit series, where we offer tips to help guide you through the application process. Check out part one to learn more about filling out your application or part two for tips on writing your personal statement.  

If you have any additional questions about applying to Pacific, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 209.946.2211 or Ready to take the next step? Apply today!   

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