Asking a Professor for a Letter of Recommendation Sample

In this article, I’ll share a step-by-step guide based on my experiences, complete with a customizable template to help you secure a compelling letter of recommendation from your professor.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand Timing: Request your letter well in advance.
  • Personalize Your Approach: Tailor your request to the professor’s experience with you.
  • Provide Supporting Materials: Make it easy for your professor by providing all necessary information.
  • Follow Up Graciously: Always follow up and thank your professor for their time and effort.
  • Use a Template: A well-crafted template can streamline the process.

Step 1: Choose the Right Professor

The first step is crucial—selecting the right professor to ask. Choose someone who knows you well and can vouch for your abilities authentically. This shouldn’t be just any professor, but one who has a positive opinion of you and ideally has witnessed your growth over time.

Example: I once asked a professor who had overseen my progress from a struggling freshman to a confident senior. Her letter resonated deeply with admissions committees because it highlighted my development and resilience.

Step 2: Time Your Request Appropriately

Timing can be everything. Ask for your recommendation letter at least a month before the deadline. This shows respect for the professor’s time and ensures they can craft a thoughtful letter without rush.

Timing Tip Table:

ScenarioIdeal Time to Request
Regular application4-6 weeks in advance
Last minute opportunityAt least 2 weeks in advance
During professor’s busy season (e.g., finals)Extra 2 weeks

Step 3: Prepare Your Materials

Before approaching your professor, compile a folder containing your resume, a transcript, your personal statement, and details about the program or opportunity you are applying for. 

This will not only demonstrate your professionalism but also provide your professor with the tools to write a comprehensive and personalized letter.

Step 4: Craft Your Request

Your request, whether made via email or in person, should be respectful and succinct. Start by expressing your respect for the professor and your appreciation for their class or mentorship. Clearly state why you believe they are the right person to recommend you.

Template for Email Request:

Subject: Request for Letter of Recommendation

Dear Professor [Last Name],

I hope this message finds you well. I am reaching out to request a letter of recommendation from you as I apply for [specific program or job]. Given my enjoyable and educational experience in your [specific course], and your insights into my [specific skills or projects], I believe your recommendation would be highly impactful.

I have attached my resume, transcript, and other relevant documents to aid in your writing. Please let me know if there is any other information you might need.

Thank you very much for considering my request. I would appreciate your support immensely.

Warm regards,

[Your Name]

Step 5: Follow Up

After sending your request, give your professor some time to respond. If you haven’t heard back in a week or two, it’s appropriate to send a polite follow-up. Once they agree, keep them informed of the application process and outcomes.

Step 6: Show Your Gratitude

Regardless of the outcome, thank your professor for their effort. A handwritten thank-you note can leave a lasting impression and maintain a good relationship for future interactions.

Real-life Example: After receiving my acceptance letter, I sent a handwritten note to my professor, expressing my gratitude. She later mentioned how much she appreciated the gesture and offered further guidance for my next steps.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: How do I choose which professor to ask for a letter of recommendation?

Answer: From my experience, choose a professor who has seen your work closely and can specifically discuss your strengths and contributions. Someone who can share detailed examples of your growth and achievements will write the most compelling letter.

Q: What’s the best way to approach a professor for a letter of recommendation?

Answer: I’ve found that approaching professors in person, when possible, is very effective. It allows for a more personal connection and shows respect for their time, but if necessary, a well-crafted email can also work well.

Q: Is it appropriate to remind a professor about a recommendation letter deadline?

Answer: Absolutely, it’s both appropriate and necessary. I always send a polite reminder email if the deadline is approaching and I haven’t received confirmation that the letter has been sent; professors are busy, and a gentle nudge can help.

Q: Should I provide any specific materials to the professor writing my letter of recommendation?

Answer: Yes, providing a resume, transcript, and a draft of your application essay or statement of purpose can be incredibly helpful. When I did this, it gave my professors a deeper insight into my goals and achievements, enabling them to tailor the letter more effectively.

Q: How should I thank a professor for writing a letter of recommendation?

Answer: I always send a handwritten thank-you note expressing my gratitude. This personal touch not only shows your appreciation but also helps maintain a strong and positive relationship for the future.

Q: What should I do if a professor declines to write a recommendation?

Answer: Respect their decision and don’t take it personally. I’ve learned to simply thank them for considering my request and then reach out to another potential recommender who might have more time or a more relevant perspective on my work.

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