Last Updated on 2021-09-09
Hi everyone! I’m an international student studying fashion in New York.
Asking for a recommendation letter may be a little embarrassing and thus hard to start.
Let me answer 5 frequently-asked questions and help you to start your application journey!
For people visiting the first time, these are the programs that I was admitted to.
Numbers of Recommendation Letters
These are information for Fall 2021, and please check the official website to look up the requirements of your application semester.
- Parsons School of Design: 2 (at most 3)
- LIM College: 1 (at most 2)
Next, I will answer 5 FAQs for writing a request for a recommendation letter.
Q1. Who should I ask for a recommendation letter?
First, you should check the requirements of your school.
Take LIM College as an example. The requirement is: “You are required to submit one letter of recommendation from an academic or work-related reference.”
The requirement of Parsons School of Design was written on the application page, so I can’t see it now. I remember that it required someone that was in an academic or work-related reference too.
After you check the fundamental regulations, these are some ideas to find an ideal candidate.
(1) Someone familiar with you or your work
The more the candidate knows you, the more persuasive and specific your recommendation letter would be.
I asked two professors to help with my recommendation letter.
However, I understand that some of you may not think of many candidates that meet this qualification. So do I, and I only thought of 3 professors that knew me a bit more than others.
Thus, I added my SOP, resume, and past works in class as references while requesting a letter. It is a good way to proactively let him/her know you more. I also mentioned that if needed, we could meet up and talk more about my motivation of the application.
(2) Related to your program
Asking someone related to the program for a recommendation, you are more likely to persuade people that you are potential in the field. Due to applying for marketing and management programs, I asked professors in International Business and Marketing courses for help. The one that taught me International Business even inspired me to go for the fashion industry, which is more related to my application.
(3) Having a high grade in that course
It is not the first time I heard professors saying, “Please request a recommendation letter unless you got a good score in my class.”
Professors also need materials to recommend you. If you didn’t perform well in class, it would be hard for them to write some positive paragraphs.
(4) Should be at least an assistant professor
If you’re asking a professor for help, I recommend finding someone whose position is higher than an assistant professor.
After looking up so many articles online, I discovered that it was common sense in the academic field, and seems to be more persuasive by doing so.
However, I’m not sure if practical programs such as the MPS degree applies to the idea. Unless he knows you well, or may have much working experience, I think it would be nice to take this idea into account.
(5) English Writing Ability
As an international student, there may be some candidates that are not good at English. Unfortunately, the expression ability of English does matter. It affects how persuasive the recommendation letter is.
I’ve considered asking my employer to write a Mandarin version, and I translate it afterward. However, I found it a little awkward. What’s more, I don’t see my previous manager in person, and it may even be hard for him to submit the letter online.
If anyone has better solution, please comment below!
Q2. When should I send requests for recommendation letters?
More than a month before the submit deadline might be appropriate.
November and December are especially busy months for application, so it’s important to leave time for your professors.
Moreover, if your professor didn’t reply, you have to work on finding another one! I ran into this situation this time, and it was only two weeks left when I finally found another professor to help.
Last but not least, to let the professor know more about you, I recommend adding your SOP and CV as a reference, which I mentioned above. Thus, you should also finish your first version of the materials a month before, to match the time of sending the invitation.
Q3. What should I write in the request email for recommendation letters?
This is my paragraphs below:
- Who I am
- The course I took
- Reason for sending the email
- How the professor impacted my life
- My grade in the course
- Why I apply for the degree
- My strength
- Ask about the professor’s will
- Information about the recommendation letter (how many letters? deadline? expected finishing date)
- Ask if a meeting or a draft of the recommendation letter is needed
- Look forward to the reply
However you manage your paragraph, you should include the details of the recommendation letter!
It would be impolite if you let your recommender feel confused, and may even decline your request.
Q4. What if my professor asked me to write a draft?
A professor asked me to write a draft, and I was at a loss at first. It is so hard to recommend myself. However, after looking up a lot of information online, I finally finished it!
These are the tips:
(1) Ask someone to review it before hanging in to the professor.
Because of recommending ourselves, there are some limitations of the point of view. Moreover, we don’t know if the professor will spend time revising it thoroughly, so it will be ideal that the draft is in good qualification when the reference receives it.
Thus, I highly recommend asking someone to review it for you before sending it to your professor!
It could be obvious that it is written by oneself, and decreases its value. I understand that most of you may be lack of time when receiving the request. It’s fine to find a friend that has better English ability and is familiar with preparing for the application materials, instead of finding a professional editing teacher.
I asked my friend to read it for me previously, and discovered a lot of blind spots which made the letter factitious. For instance, I mentioned a lot about my character in group works, but the describing tone let people feel confused about why the professor will know details without participating in the discussion.
It only takes a few minutes to ask for help, however, the outcome might be more than your expectation!
(2) Ask for a chance to meet the professor
Fortunately, the professor who asked me to write a draft, initiatively arranged a meeting with me, to know more about my motivation.
I was not familiar with the professor at first. The reason I asked her to be a reference is that she teaches marketing, and I received an A+ in her course.
During the meeting, I found that the professor got much inspiration for writing the recommendation letter. We also got closer during the hour, and she identified my strength.
She was also glad with this conversation! She said that due to chatting with me, she could write a better letter of recommendation.
Thus, I strongly recommend to ask for a conversation with your professor! You could convey your motivation more, and also show your personality and strength.
What’s more, I received confidence from my professor. I was exhausted because of revising the essays then. The professor encouraged me a lot, and I gained the energy to keep working hard.
Q5. Could I ask for multiple letters from the same person?
It differs from each professor and situation. If the programs you’re applying are similar, which don’t need a lot of revision, I believe that the professor would be happy to help.
I was applying to programs that were both related to fashion management, so I asked the same professor to wrote letters for two schools. I also mentioned that as the two schools were similar, it would be fine to write the same content. Both professors accepted my request. As long as we are polite and inform the number we need for the recommendation beforehand, I think it would be fine for requesting 2-3 letters.
If you need the above 3 letters, or the programs differ a lot, you may be rejected by the reference. So be prepared to find another one!
Here is a website that may be helpful: How Many Letters is Too Many? Asking a Professor for Multiple Recommendation Letters for Summer Research Program Applications.
Official Guide from Parsons
There is a guide video from Parsons School of Design. If you are applying to Parsons, please refer to the video below.
To Sum up…
That’s it for my suggestions! To be admitted by our dream schools, though it might be embarrassing, let’s be brave to ask for a sincere recommendation letter!
In the next episode, I would share my experience of being late on one of the trivial official documents.
I also share my New York Life on Instagram @diane.style.tw. Follow me if interested!
Read More on LIM and Parsons Application:
- Ep.1 | The Reason I Chose to Study Fashion Management in New York
- Ep.2 | Master’s in Fashion Management and Fashion Business Portfolios
- Ep.3 | SOP Preparation for International Students
- Ep.4 | 5 FAQs about Writing a Request for Recommendation Letters
- Ep.5 | Submit IELTS Score Online
- Ep.6 | LIM College Interview Questions
- Ep.7 | Admissions Decision Dates