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6 Steps to an Amazing Letter of Recommendation

If you are applying to athletic training programs, you’re likely going to need letters of recommendation.  Our program here at the University of Idaho requires three.  We talk to many students who have questions about this.  What does LOR stand for?  Who should they ask for a letter?  What is the process like?  What can they do to make their letter of recommendation really shine?  While obtaining letters may seem daunting, we’re here to demystify the process and help you get some amazing letters of recommendation!

What is a letter of recommendation?  These are letters about you, written from faculty, people within the athletic training profession, and those who have known you from a supervisory perspective.  In theory, these are the people who know you best and will be able to give clear insight into your ability to succeed in the athletic training program and as a health care provider.  They are often abbreviated to LOR.  

LOR description

  • Usually about one page in length.
  • Establishes how long the letter-writer knows you, and in what capacity.
  • Provides examples of your strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for growth.
  • Gives the writer’s insight into how they think you’ll perform in the program you are applying to.

Here are the steps to get your own amazing letter of recommendation.

1. Prepare

This blog is a great place to start.  You may also consider looking at sample recommendation letters for graduate school admission online.  Although you likely won’t ever see your own LOR, looking at samples can help you visualize the people that will be the best fit for writing yours.

2. Choose the right person

Who should you ask to write your letters?  This can be a hard question.  You’ll want people who have had close contact with you (likely in a supervisory role) who are connected to the athletic training profession.  Here are some things to consider:

  • How long has this person known you? 
  • How well does this person know you?
  • What is this person’s professional role?
  • Have you had positive interactions with this individual?
  • Can this person speak to your strengths as a person, student, or employee?

You’ll want to strike a balance between those factors to find your perfect matches.  Many students choose faculty members who have been their advisor and/or instructors in Pre-AT coursework.  You may have difficulties finding three individuals who are perfect fits.  That is okay!  The program you are applying to knows you aren’t an athletic trainer yet.  If you need to, you can think outside the box for the last letter or two. It is generally best practice to refrain from having friends and family members write LORs on your behalf.  Do you have a coach, mentor, or supervisor who may be situated to write a strong letter?

3. Ask

Once you have determined who your ideal letter writers are, it is time to ask them.  A general rule of thumb would be asking as soon as you know you may need one from them. Give them as much lead-time as possible.  A month is a decent amount of time, two weeks is too short.  Approach them in-person at a quiet moment, perhaps during their office hours.  Also, be sure to ask if they would be willing to write a positive LOR for you. If your history with this individual is relatively neutral, they may not be able to speak to specific strengths of yours. If they agree to your in-person request, tell them that you’ll send them an email with the pertinent details.

What if they seem hesitant? They may not have high enthusiasm for several reasons.  They may have an over-full schedule.  They may not feel like they know you well enough, or perhaps your interactions with them weren’t as positive as you thought they were.  Either way, do not press a hesitant letter-writer.  Thank them for their consideration and move on to a different person.

4. Send them an email with the pertinent details

After your person has agreed to write your letter, follow-up with an email.  Faculty interact with many students and write many LORs, so it is a good idea to be as helpful as you can.  Some institutions request very specific information to be discussed in the LORs. Do your research and determine what specifically needs to be included in their writing. This may help make the letter writing more efficient and effective for your recommender.  Items you may consider including in your email:

  • Appreciation for agreeing to write your LOR.
  • How long they’ve known you, and in what capacity.  For example, “You’ve been my undergraduate advisor for the last three years, and I took these classes from you.”
  • What schools you are applying to.
  • A resume or curriculum vitae outlining your professional and/or academic background
  • How the school would like the LOR to be provided.  If you are doing applications through ATCAS, your LOR-writer will receive an email invitation from ATCAS to fill out a form online.  Other schools may request LORs to be sent directly to them.
  • The due date or deadline you need the LOR to be completed by

5. Follow-up

Different people will need different amounts of interaction, and you can judge best how much follow-up to provide.  If you are working with a faculty member who has many students and a busy schedule, you may need to provide a bit more follow-up.  If the faculty member seems like they need less, feel free to provide less.  If you are unsure, you can also ask when an appropriate time would be to follow up with them if you have not heard anything. Many AT programs, including ours, will let students know if they are waiting for a LOR to complete an application.  If you receive a message from the AT program, that is a good time to follow-up. 

6. Thanks

After your letters have been submitted, it is always a good idea to go back and thank the letter-writer one last time.  Let them know if you were accepted into a program, and what your next steps are.

And there you have it, six steps to an amazing letter of recommendation.  As we gear up for application season here at the University of Idaho, we hope we’ll see yours in the mix!



MSAT Rolling Application Deadlines:
Priority application deadline: Nov. 15
Secondary deadline: Jan. 25
DAT Application Deadlines:

Only one for Summer admissions: April 15 each year


First day of classes and Summer semester dates:
MSAT: June 3- August 2nd 2024
DAT: July 1st through July 26th 2024

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