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How to ask for—and receive—a stellar letter of recommendation

A step-by-step guide for getting an amazing recommendation

Author: Jen Cooper

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You found a great educator preparation program and you’re excited to apply. You’ve got your resume prepared and a personal essay written, but the program also wants a letter of recommendation. You know you need to stand out from the crowd and a great recommendation will help you do that, but who do you ask? And how do you ask them?  

We’ve created a few guidelines to help you. Follow these steps to fearlessly ask for and receive a stellar recommendation letter.

Step one: Understand the letter requirements

Before you ask for a letter of recommendation, it pays to have a closer look at the letter requirements. Some application instructions tell you exactly what to include. For others, look for keywords in the program admission requirements.

Step two: Choose a recommender

You will typically need two to three references from people who can attest to your skill sets, strengths and fit for a career in education. Common types of recommenders include employers, supervisors, teachers and professors.

Step three: Prepare materials to make the recommender’s job easy

You can make it easy for your recommender to write you a great recommendation by providing information they can use to write the letter. Specifically, gather:

  • An explanation of what you’re applying for and why you’d like them to recommend you. 
  • Some background about your rationale for applying to the program and your career aspirations once you complete the program. Consider including your personal essay(s), if you’ve completed that task.
  • The deadline for their letter. (Bake in one week’s wiggle room.)
  • A copy of your official or unofficial transcript.
  • Your resume/CV.
  • Instructions about how to submit your letter of recommendation. Some programs require recommenders to use a web submission form or program-specific email address.
  • Any additional information you feel the recommender needs to write your letter. 

If your recommender is a past instructor, include the grade(s) you received in their course(s) and any sample work you completed for them. This will remind them of your performance and fit.

Step four: Make the ask

Send a short, polite email before the deadline for submitting the letter. If you ask in person, follow up with an email. If you are not currently employed by, or in a class with your recommender, start with a reminder of who you are and when you last spent time together. 

Tell the recommender the purpose of the letter and inform them exactly how to submit the letter. Most letters are uploaded into an online application system, but if the recommender should mail the letter, include a stamped, addressed envelope. Attach your resume, and thank your recommender.

Need some inspiration? Check out our starter-template!

Level up your game with these pro tips


Give your recommenders plenty of time to reflect on your accomplishments and to write the letter. Some programs recommend asking at least 30 days in advance.

Don’t assume that someone will have the time or be willing to recommend you for a teacher preparation program. Make your request far enough in advance to allow for any necessary course-corrections.


Make sure to get confirmation from your recommender once your letter is submitted.

Once you’ve received confirmation of submission, give your recommender a big thank you in the form of an email, phone call or card. Just like you, recommenders have a day job, and providing a reference is a favor to you (that’s how great you must be!). Not only is this polite, but it will encourage your recommender to support you in the future.

If you are accepted to your educator preparation program, let your recommender know! It takes a village.

Ready to start applying to an EPP?