By Aliya Ali, Key Club International trustee

Asking for letters of recommendation can be a daunting task, and you might not know where to start, but it is a crucial step when applying to college or for a job. It serves as a tell of your character and lets everyone know how ready you are for the #bosslife.

When you’re asking for a letter of recommendation, keep these steps in mind.

Be prepared: If you don’t know where to start, think of teachers, coaches and mentors with whom you have good relationships. You should have at least one core-subject teacher on your list, because some applications require this.

After you have compiled your list, do research. Ask past graduates or your peers if they received recommendations from any of those individuals. How did it go? Do they have any specific requirements? For example, one teacher might ask you to fill out a questionnaire or ask for a resume to ensure they hit the topics that are important to you.  This way, you are prepared for the next step.

The big ask. There are several ways to pop the question, but it’s crucial to be polite. If possible, make the request in person, but if not, you can do it via email.

When asking in person, chat, catch up and then ask if they would have time to help you by writing a letter of recommendation. Let them know that you are asking because you trust them. When making the request via email, ensure that your note is formally written and includes a recollection of a time where they have positively affected you. If they are unable to write a letter of recommendation, accept the response graciously and don’t assume it’s because they don’t like you. They might be unable to do so because of time constraints. If they say yes, be sure to thank them.

Be clear about your expectations. If you don’t communicate your needs, the teacher/coach/mentor might write something different than what you anticipated. If you need a letter highlighting certain achievements or personality traits, let your source know the parameters. Then you can better anticipate the recommendation’s content and plan for additional letters that fulfil other requirements.

Reminders might be necessary. “Hold up, my application deadline is next week, but I haven’t received my letter of recommendation! What do I do?”

No need to panic. A short email or a quick reminder message can do the trick. Again, be polite and aware that your source might be busy. If you still have not received your letter when the deadline approaches, send a reminder, stressing that you appreciate their being willing to help and how much the letter means to you.

Offer sincere thanks. A handmade thank you card, a small gift or another token of your appreciation is great. This is a crucial step because someone made time on their schedule to help you. If you need suggestions for ways to show your thanks, ask your parents or peers.

Congrats! You have successfully asked for and received a letter of recommendation. I hope this helps motivate you and enhances your application journey. Just know that you are doing amazing, and I am proud of you!