So you want to go to vet school and become a veterinarian? One, well, really at least three of the things you need as a part of your application to veterinary school are letters of recommendation. These are really important and do not let anyone tell you otherwise.
I’ve spoken to the members of the admissions committee and Deans about these seemingly inconsequential letters, and they have all stressed how much they mean. The people that write these letters are usually vets, professors, colleagues, and employers. They have worked with you and know who you are, what you’re about, and what your capabilities are!
Sometimes, it is better to start off a new experience by letting your supervisor know that you may be asking them for a letter of recommendation in the future or to serve as a reference. This should come as no surprise to them, but it is always good to be honest and ensure that you are both on the same page. Besides, telling them up front lets them know you’re serious about the experience and you are determined to do a good job. They’ll be pleased to hear that!
When it comes time to ask for a letter of recommendation, there is no easy way to go about asking. Sometimes, just like asking someone out on a date, you just need to bite the bullet and go for it. Sure timing is always good to think about, but there will probably never be an ideal time to ask. Just make sure not to ask if it has been a particularly stressful day for the person or if they are in a bad mood. And yes, I am aware that some people are seemingly always in a bad mood, so in that case, you may want to ask yourself, will this person really write me that great of a letter? If the answer is yes, then just ask! I know I’ve asked individuals who are normally stressed out with the world for letters of recommendation and it made them feel so happy and honored to be given that opportunity. I only asked because I knew they really liked me and knew I did good work and that their feelings of stress and frustration were not at all directed at me.
When you go to ask, my favorite phrase is, “Would you be able to provide me with a strong letter of recommendation.” Clearly the letter of recommendation could be strongly unfavorable but I would hope that if you’re asking this person, that you know they like you and would want to help you pursue your dreams.
Of course, once the individual has agreed to write a letter for you, be sure to provide them with information that may help them — a resume or CV, your personal statement, transcript, etc. Many of them will not know much about you other than your work with them, and even if they don’t include the other information in your letter, it gives them increased confidence in their recommendation.
Be sure to set a deadline (at least 1 month before the actual due date). This tells them that you are on top of things and do not plan to leave things until the last minute. Of course, the early deadline is really in case the person writing the LOR gets busy, forgets, procrastinates, etc. (We’ve all been there!)
Lastly, be sure to follow up with the people writing your letters periodically to see how it is coming along, if they need any additional information, etc. Remind them of the deadline nicely and politely unless you are getting into the red zone. In that case, it may be time to pay them a visit and express your concern. Hopefully it will not come to that.
Feel free to post any questions you may have.