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How to Ask a Professor for a Letter of Recommendation

Are you looking to get into a graduate program? Perhaps you have finished your degree and are seeking employment? If so, then there is a strong possibility that you are going to find yourself in need of a letter of recommendation.

College professors are an excellent choice because they have spent extensive time with you, observing how you work, how you analyse information and even how you present your opinion in a group setting. The question is, how to ask a professor for a letter of recommendation?

What Is a Letter of Recommendation?

It is essentially a letter which gives the admissions board or an employer a brief overview of you as a student and as a person in general. Your professor should describe their experiences of working with you referencing specific situations, attitudes and other things that speak to your character. They should also describe what potential they see in you and why you are a good fit for the program or position.

Who Should Write It for You?

One of the first things you need to think about when it comes to requesting a strong letter of recommendation is who you are going to ask to write it! It is a good idea to choose a faculty member. That way, you’ll be confident that the person knows you reasonably well. Ideally, they should know you not only as their student, but in other contexts as well.

What if there’s no professor who knows me good enough?

If you still have enough time before you need a recommendation letter, you should put in much effort to make connections with your professors. That way, you’ll be able to improve your chance to achieve your academic and career goals.

Keep in mind that admissions offices receive hundreds, if not thousands of letters from potential students. Many of these letters are generic and do not stand out in the pile.

If you choose a professor who knows you well both as a student and on a more personal level, they can write the letter with a more specific slant.

This is going to help it stand out and get your application noticed.

Is There a Certain Etiquette for Recommendation Requests?

When asking your professor for a letter it is important to understand that it is something they take seriously and that a certain amount of etiquette involved when requesting letters. It is necessary to make a formal request for your reference letter. This should be done by email or letter.

You should ask if he or she is willing to write a reference letter or fill out recommendation forms on your behalf.

A pro tip: Never assume that your professor will be comfortable writing the letter – even if they have agreed to write one in the past. A formal request should always be made.

Here are a few more etiquette tips to keep in mind when asking a professor for a letter of recommendation:

  • Ask as Early as Possible – Professors have busy schedules and it can take time to write a strong letter of recommendation. Submit your request as early as you can, preferably a month before the deadline. This will give plenty of time for your professor to handle the request.
  • Provide as Much Information as Possible – It will be really helpful to your professor if you provide as much information about the program or job that you are applying for. This will make it much easier for them to complete the text that helps you the best way. It may even be useful to make an appointment during their office hours to discuss it in full.
  • Include a Pre-Addressed Envelope – Make it as easy as possible on your professor by providing them with included envelopes which are pre-addressed and have the correct postage affix.

What If My Professor Denies My Recommendation Request?

There is always a chance that your professor will deny your request. If this happens, try not to be too disheartened. There could be a variety of reasons for their refusal. It may not even be personal. It could be that they have several requests on their plate already and just don’t have the time to add another one to their workload.

They may also feel that they do not actually have enough experience or knowledge of you as a student.Sometimes it might be that they simply think there is another program more suited to your skillset.

A refusal is not an indication that you are a horrible student!

The best course of action is to simply thank them for their time and send a request to your second choice. This is another great reason to get those requests in as early as possible, so you have plenty of time to decide on plan B!

In conclusion, asking for a letter of recommendation is something that you need to take very seriously. It could be the difference between securing that place in graduate school or that dream job and being turned down. Get as much information as possible to include with your request to make things easier on your professor and be sure to give them enough time to complete your request.