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12 November, 2023

How to ask for Reference Letters for Optometry School Applications

When applying to Optometry schools, you will be required to obtain reference letters. In this article, we will discuss how to ask for reference letters for Optometry School Applications.
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If you are applying to a professional school, you will likely be asked to include a reference letter. A letter of reference or recommendation (LOR) is often written by a professor, counselor or manager that speaks on the applicant’s qualities and characteristics. A strong LOR is an important part of your application and can be the determining factor in whether or not you are admitted into your dream school. Therefore, it is best to be prepared and know how to properly ask for a LOR that will speak well on your potential for success in the field you are pursuing. In this article, we will cover 5 steps on how to ask for a LOR, including templates to use when reaching out to your references.

1️⃣ Start Early

Your references are busy people and LORs can take some time to write up, especially if all applicants will be asking for reference letters at around the same time in the application cycle. We would recommend reaching out at least 1 month before your application deadline, as asking early will allow your references to spend more time and put in more thought when writing about you. Even more, applications are generally facilitated through an online portal so it can take even more time to send a reference request through the portal, as well as wait for a letter of recommendation to be uploaded. The whole process can often take weeks to months, so it would be best to figure out when you want to submit your applications so you can work backwards to figure out when to start asking for your reference letters. This is especially the case if your program is on a rolling admission basis, meaning that the earlier you submit your full application (including reference letters), the more seats are available in the class and the higher your chances of being admitted into the program.

2️⃣ Choose Your References

For a professional school program in the healthcare field (optometry, dentistry, medicine, etc.), you are generally asked for 2-3 recommendation letters to supplement your application. Of the 2-3 letters, you are typically asked to find 1 healthcare provider (optometrist/dentist/doctor/etc), 1 professor, and 1 supervisor/other reference. As LORs are weighed quite heavily in admissions decisions, be sure to pick people who know you well and can speak on your character, attributes, and passion for the field. If you are finding it hard to ask a professor for a LOR, you can try to get to know a few professors well by asking questions in lecture, attending office hours, and taking multiple courses with the same professor to help build a solid relationship. You also want to choose a professor that is in the same field as the program you are applying to and someone who taught a class that you performed well in.

3️⃣ Ask in Person

Before you send a formal request for a recommendation letter, make sure to bring it up in person first. This will give your potential references a heads-up on what program you are applying for and why you think they would be a suitable reference for you. Some people may have a lot on their plate at the moment, and asking informally first can allow them to say no in case they are not available to write a LOR for you. At the same time, you can use this interaction to determine if your potential references, especially any professors, have specific policies when it comes to LORs. For example, some professors may ask that you also provide your resume or personal statement. After asking in person first, you can then proceed accordingly based on each individual’s schedule and potential policies.

4️⃣ Send a Formal Request

Once you have mentioned your application in person with your references, it is time to send them a formal request. It would be best to send a written request through email so there is a clear paper trail, and you can send reminders through the same email thread with ease. Be sure to attach your resume/curriculum vitae (CV), as it will allow your references to easily highlight your accomplishments. Also, you can offer to provide other documents (transcript, personal statement, etc.) to help them better understand your passion for the field. Below are templates for requesting a LOR and writing up a CV if needed.

  • Reference Request Template:
  • Hi (Name),
  • (If needed, something personal to remind them of you), and I have been working on my applications for (name of degree) programs. As my (teacher/manager/counselor) who (what they taught you when you worked with them), I am reaching out to ask if you would be able to serve as a reference and provide a strong letter of recommendation for me. (Provide some brief context for the field you are pursuing, and/or extra-curriculars that have enforced your passion for the field). Having the experience of being (name of role), I have learned (what you learned/enjoyed while working with them). I appreciate the guidance you have provided, and (explain how their LOR would help support your application). I am applying to (list of schools) and (explain when you hope to submit your applications with their LOR). I understand you are busy and my request may be difficult for you to manage your time around – please keep me informed if this is not possible. I have attached my CV and can provide my transcript if needed. I also welcome the opportunity to further discuss my qualifications.
  • Thank you,
  • (Your Name)
  • (Your contact information)

  • Curriculum Vitae (CV) Template:
  • Name
  • Contact information
  • Education

    • University
      • Your overall GPA
      • Any major academic accomplishments or awards
      • If appropriate, the courses you took with the professor and the grade you received
    • High school
      • Your overall GPA
      • Any major academic accomplishments or awards
      • If appropriate, the courses you took with the professor and the grade you received
  • Employment

    • Research/school-related jobs
    • Optometric assistant
  • Optometric experience

    • Shadowing/Optometric intern
  • Extracurricular activities

    • Sports/school clubs
    • Volunteering at hospital/senior home/kids helpline etc

5️⃣ Follow Up

Once you have sent out a formal request for a LOR and a reference request through the application portal, follow up by letting your references know that the request has been sent out in case they do not receive a request from the portal. As the deadline approaches, you can also send them a polite reminder 2 weeks before the due date so that they can submit their LOR on time.

6️⃣ Express Your Gratitude

Your references are busy people with a lot on their schedules. Once the LOR has been received by the application portal, be sure to let them know the application was successfully submitted and thank them with a small gift – a letter or small gift card goes a long way!

👉 Conclusion

Applying to professional school programs is a lengthy process with many steps, so it is important to know what you need before diving in. This way, you can start early and give your references enough time to write a strong LOR that will best support your application and maximize your chances of admission into your dream school. Hopefully, these 5 steps and the templates provided will be helpful for your application. Good luck!