Reference Letter Etiquette

When requesting a reference letter from your teacher (s), please provide AMPLE NOTICE (minimum 2 weeks) and provide your teacher(s) with as much information as possible.

  • Consider using our reference letter planner to outline your activities/accomplishments. WILL BEVERYHELPFUL! Some teachers will ask for this.
    Be clear about when you need the letter by

Be polite when asking for a reference letter

  • Remember, teachers are not required to write you a reference letter. Those who do are taking time out of their busy schedule to do this as a FAVOUR TO YOU
  • Be nice. Being demanding and pushy will do you no favours in getting a good reference from your teachers.

Be gracious even if a teacher turns you down.

  • Most teachers will write reference letters, but there are sometimes mitigating factors for some Teachers to decline:
  • Maybe they don’t know you well enough and do not have much to say about you. Teachers who know you and have lots to say about you are usually the best references!
  • Maybe they do not have many nice things to say about you (harsh, but sometimes this is true).
    • Don’t just ask any teacher to be your reference? Ask a teacher with whom you have a good relationship and can provide details about your work ethic, academics, etc. Teachers are asked to be honest in their reference letters and when people call for a reference check. You want to know that the teacher you ask to be your reference will have your back and go to bat for you!
  • Maybe you didn’t give your teacher enough notice.  Ask yourself: Do you really want a hastily written reference letter?

Plan ahead..and good luck!
“A lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on our part.”

Adapted: Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School

Reference Letter Planner

This form should be completed prior to requesting a reference letter. It can be done in point form. The information you provide in these 5 questions will be extremely helpful to the person who has agreed to compose a reference letter for you. It would be helpful to also provide them with a copy of your current transcript and a copy of the application form.

1. EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES. (List the extracurricular activities you have been involved in throughout high school. This includes your involvement in sports, music, clubs, leadership classes etc. Include the dates and years of involvement counselor)

2. COMMUNITY VOLUNTEER WORK/INVOLVEMENT. (List and describe any community volunteer work or involvement. Include the dates and year(s) of involvement counselor)

3. SPECIAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS. (List ALL certificates, awards, leadership roles etc. that you have earned both in the school and community.)

4. EMPLOYMENT HISTORY. (Outline your employment history. Provide dates of employment, names of companies and employers, tasks performed, etc.)

5. CHARACTER DESCRIPTORS. (Provide at least six words that best describe you. Explain why you think these words are the best descriptors of your character.)