How to ask a professor for a letter of recommendation

+79 votes
asked Feb 9, 2018 in Education by JakeMill726 (270 points)
edited Mar 23, 2018
I am currently applying for graduate schools; one of the requirements is letters of recommendation from professors that have taught me. I think it is understandable since my professors are the ones that know me and my work best. But how do you ask a professor for a letter of recommendation really? I mean, what are the dos and don’ts?

2 Answers

+13 votes
answered Mar 15 by NobleBodifor (380 points)
edited Jul 20

There aren't many things harder to do than to ask someone to put their own reputation on the line to promote you. So to make things easier, always remember the following points:

Start off by listing professors who have an intimate relationship with your work. Make sure the work you have done for them has always been excellent, or at least above average;

When you ask, still make sure you ask for a positive letter of recommendation, so that they can tell you from the beginning if they plan to give you positive feedback. They should be able to give a detailed letter that is at once sincere and serious, and it should show support for whatever you are applying for;

Letters with any kind of generic structures won’t do you any good, because they don't show much about your special abilities and talents. Make sure to be polite and informative of exactly what you want out of this letter so that everything is clear and the letter is all it can be to ensure you get the position (or get into the program) that you are aiming for.

Hopefully this answers your question of how to ask a professor for a letter of recommendation.

commented Sep 22, 2015 by JeniferHaddo (150 points)
Im so glad I read this post. Awesome stuff!
+2 votes
answered Apr 11 by EthanRunyon (220 points)
edited May 2
While it may not seem so, there is right and wrong ways to request a letter of recommendation as well as a time line to abide by to make sure everything is in when needed. They say about two months, but really, as soon as you find out that you need a letter of recommendation, it's time to start deciding who you feel would be the best one to write it. Write out a list of all the professors that would be appropriate to do this job. Make sure they know your work and they know all your strengths, not just in their classes but in general. Then you can put those on your list in order by who you think is the best option.

No later than six weeks out, you should have asked the professors about the letters of recommendation. It's actually a good idea to write a request for letters of recommendation first. This is a rather simple task, which shouldn't take you long. Make sure in your letter you are specific about what you want. Make sure to introduce yourself even if they know you. State your name, your occupation or major, and how it is you know the professor. Don't forget to include a subject. Make sure you get everything completed early, so you would have plenty of time if you need to change something or if you forget something.
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