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How To Get Letters Of Recommendation When You’ve Been Out Of School

When you have been out of school for an extended period of time, it can be really tough to get a good letter of recommendation.

In order to move on to graduate school or even just to get into a good university, you sometimes need two or three letters of recommendation, and if you are stressed because you haven’t been able to attend school properly, then we are here to help. 

How To Get Letters Of Recommendation When You’ve Been Out Of School

You may feel like you have made no contacts to help you, and you may feel like you haven’t built up the appropriate relationships to ask for a letter of recommendation, especially if you have been out of school for a few years.

But you will be surprised by how many avenues are still available to you, you just need to look in the right places. 

We have put together some helpful tips and ways in which you can get letters of recommendation, regardless of how long you have been out of school. So let’s take a look! 

How To Get Letters Of Recommendation When You’ve Been Out Of School 

It can definitely feel like a hopeless task at first, but once you know the appropriate avenues to go down, you might realize that you have more options than you think. 

Whether you have been out of school for a semester or two or you have been out of school for a few years, there are many different ways you can go about getting a letter of recommendation, so check out the following avenues to see what works best for you! 

Reach Out To Former Teachers

This one might seem obvious, but it really does work!

Even if you have been out of school for a couple of years, as long as you were on good terms with your former teachers, they are very likely to write your recommendation letters. 

Even if you don’t really have a relationship with your former teachers, they still might write you a letter of recommendation.

When it comes to picking out the right teachers to ask, and look for ones who you had multiple classes with.

Also, if you performed quite well in certain classes while you were there, look out for those teachers too. 

You can even help these teachers by providing them with bullet point details of projects, papers, or other positive achievements you made in their class.

Most teachers are happy and enthusiastic to help former students reach their goals, and just asking them for help is a lot more effective than you might think. 

Ask Your Boss

If you have been away from academia for quite some time but you have been working during that time, then you can also ask your current or former boss to write your letters of recommendation.

If you don’t want to ask your boss, you can even ask your supervisor, or anyone who you worked with that had a higher position. 

If you do ask your boss or supervisor, make sure that you outline what they need to write about in the letter, and put emphasis on the skills you are good at that would be appropriate for the program you are applying for.

Things like creative thinking, self-sufficiency, motivation, research, writing, and analysis skills all work really well on letters of recommendation! 

Having your boss or supervisor write your letter of recommendation shows that you have been busy while you have been out of education and you have developed the appropriate skills needed to get into the progam you are applying for. 

Build New Skills & Relationships

This may require you to postpone applying for a little while, but overall, it’s worth it.

Have a look at some classes that would be relevant to the program you want to apply to at a community college and use these classes to build new skills that will help your application look good. 

While you are in these classes, you will also get the opportunity to build new relationships with new teachers and professors, and by the time you need a letter of recommendation written, you will feel comfortable enough to ask them to write it for you. 

Building these new relationships does require you to actively get to know your new teachers, so you will need to take a genuine interest in their work, life, and research, but take one day at a time and let the relationship build naturally. 

This is also a great opportunity for you to help your teachers get to know you as well.

Help them to understand who you really are, what your skill set is, and anything else that is relevant.

Then, when it comes to asking them for a letter of recommendation, they should have no issues writing it for you.

How To Get Letters Of Recommendation When You’ve Been Out Of School (1)

Discuss Options With Admissions

If you have tried the other options we have listed here and you aren’t having much luck, the next best option for you is to reach out to the Admissions of the program or university you are trying to get into. 

Some Admissions require academic references, so if you only have professional references, see if they will accept them if they focus on your writing or research ability.

It is important to be transparent with Admissions and more often than not, they are more than happy to provide help and advice when they have all the relevant information. 

And remember- you will not be the first student to come to them with this problem.

Admissions will have dealt with letter of recommendation issues plenty of times in the past, so they will know exactly what to do and say to help you! 


It can be incredibly stressful when you can’t seem to get a letter of recommendation, but as you can see, there are plenty of things you can do and avenues which you can go down to rectify the problem. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from admissions or former professors, and in some cases, even your boss or supervisor can help! 

Simon Lewis

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