The Rules for Requesting an NP School Letter of Recommendation

Applying to a nurse practitioner program this year? As part of your application packet, you will need to submit a few letters of recommendation. Who do you plan to ask? And, more importantly, how will you ask? The method by which you request a letter of recommendation can have a significant impact on the quality and outcome of the letter itself. Not to mention, an appropriate ask is essential for receiving a positive reply. Aspiring nurse practitioner students should keep the following rules in mind when requesting a letter or recommendation. 

1. Ask the right professor, not the one that gave you the highest grade

Nurse practitioner schools typically require that students submit at least one recommendation from a college or graduate school professor. Think carefully about who you will ask. Your most effective approach? Reach out to the professor with whom you have the most extensive interaction. You may have received a ‘B’ in biochem but frequented office hours to show your commitment to the course. While your ‘A’ performance in Microbiology is objectively better, your prof may not remember you among the other 100 students in your section if you didn’t participate. Request letters of recommendation from professors with whom you were most engaged. This gives your professor ammo for writing a letter that packs a punch. 

2. Position your request to be sure you’ll receive a positive recommendation

Most professors and professionals won’t refuse to write a letter of recommendation. But, depending on who and how you ask, it’s quite possible he or she will copy and paste a generic online form. This doesn’t necessarily hurt your chances of admission but it doesn’t help.

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Rather than simply requesting a letter of recommendation, ask “Would you be comfortable writing me a strong letter of recommendation?”. This gives your contact an out if he or she won’t be able to offer a positive or thoughtful contribution to your nurse practitioner application package.

3. Get a timeline in place early in the application process

People are busy and drafting a quality letter takes time. So, request letters of recommendation at least six weeks in advance if at all possible. Let your recommender know you will email them a reminder about your letter two weeks before it is due. A reminder about your letter here and there isn’t obnoxious, but rather appreciated as teachers, healthcare providers, and others you might ask likely have a lot on their plate.

4. Make suggestions about content

Letters of recommendation are best positioned to help your application packet shine if they are tailored to the specific nurse practitioner specialty to which you are applying. While you have spent a significant amount of time researching nurse practitioner programs, your recommender likely has not. Clue the individual writing your letter in as to your education and career goals. This way, they can reference them specifically in the letter. Providing the following information is helpful:

Think about what makes you stand out as a nurse practitioner program candidateIf you want specific information included in your letter of recommendation, speak up!

4. Give specific instructions

Ensure that your letter of recommendation arrives on-time and in the right hands by providing specific, written instructions. If the letter must be mailed, provide a stamped, addressed envelope. If the letter must be submitted electronically, provide a link for doing so. If you are applying to multiple nurse practitioner programs, organize envelopes and necessary recommendation forms in a folder. Alternately, provide a USB flash drive containing all required electronic content in one place. Make it easy for the individual drafting your letter to help you.

Who will you ask for an NP program letter of recommendation?

2 thoughts on “The Rules for Requesting an NP School Letter of Recommendation”

  1. Hi, Erin! I will be applying to a graduate entry NP program this coming fall (2016). I have been out of school for 10 years (so I haven’t had contact with my undergrad professors in a long time!) and have been taking my prerequisites in the evening after working my full-time job for the day. I have found that it is difficult to engage instructors when taking evening classes, as the class typically ends around 9-10pm, and they don’t seem to be too keen on staying after class to chat. In short, I am having a hard time figuring out who to ask to write my letters of recommendations. I have received A’s in all of the classes so far, but haven’t really been able to “connect” with any of my instructors. Do you have any suggestions?

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