Letters of Recommendation
LORs are a critical part of your application.
Each university will have different requirements, but most will request academic, professional, and personal letters of support. Here’s how some of us tackled this subject.
For academic LORs, you’re going to have to select your professors strategically. If you are a transfer student, these will come from professors at your current school, and with that, we recommend that you follow a few simple guidelines.
First, it is paramount that you ask professors who can speak to not only your behavior and successes in their classroom, but also those who know you well. Most professors probably have a generic LOR prepped and ready to go, but aim to ask a professor who you believe can and will speak to detailed, legitimate examples of how you contribute to your classroom and community at large.
Secondly, we believe at least one or two of your academic LORs should come from professors within your intended field of study. If you’re applying to transfer as a math major, don’t exclusively submit an application with letters from your geography and Spanish instructors. Diversification is good, but your intentions are to prove to your prospective institutions that you’re not just there to get by, you’re there to excel and contribute.
Bonus: If you attend the Warrior Scholar Project (which you should), you may find a connection with one of the host institution’s professors. I (Jake) ended up really enjoying the instruction of a professor at my WSP course at the University of Pennsylvania. Later, I asked the professor for an LOR, and because of this, I now had an LOR supporting my endeavors from an Ivy League professor who wrote that I couldn’t just survive in a classroom, I could crush it to his standards.
As a student with far more work experience than the standard applicant (freshman or transfer), you have a huge advantage in this field.
To many universities, your military experience is extremely marketable, and provided that you were a stand-up individual throughout your time in service, you should have easy access to at least one or two testimonials of how you served throughout various tiers of leadership. We recommend asking one of your former officers who can and will write a detailed letter depicting how you specifically contributed to your element. This could be your Platoon Commander, Officer in Charge, Pilot with whom you often flew, or any other individual who you think will write on your behalf. It’s all about details. Sure, you may know a Major who will write a general recommendation, but if your Lieutenant or Captain can write about how you orchestrated certain training evolutions, reached various qualifications, or directly impacted the lives of others, we would most likely recommend these individuals. Again, this is your call, and luckily, many universities give you the opportunity to submit a few, so maybe ask your Captain and that one Major.
However, if universities give you the opportunity to submit more than one professional LOR, it may not be in your best interest to ask two officers who know you to succeed in the same capacity. It may be more beneficial for your second or third professional LOR to be from a civilian supervisor—perhaps your supervisor in your school-held position, who can speak to your professionalism in a civilian/educational environment. From personal experience, I (Jake) can testify that one of my professional LORs came from the director of the tutoring center in my community college, where I worked as a student tutor. I personally felt this letter was important to my application because it wrote to my professional capacity in a learning environment, instructing students substantially younger than me… the same students you’ll be working with at your intended transfer universities.
These ones are up to you. Do you know standout alumni from your prospective university? Do you know someone who can speak to your extracurricular activities? It’s all about shaping your narrative and finding individuals who will speak to your growth and how you contribute to your community at large.
I (Jake) asked for personal LORs from a few individuals who could speak to my contributions to my community of student veterans. I received phenomenal LORs from a staff-member at the Warrior Scholar Project, the director of the Veterans Center at my community college, and an alumnus from one of my intended universities (I only submitted the alumni letter to the corresponding college). I tried my best to provide a well-rounded application deciphering my contributions in a series of different environments.