A great opportunity comes up, and you are ready. You fill out the application, update your resume, and then come to a screeching halt because you need a Letter of Recommendation from a professor.
Asking for a Letter of Recommendation is not easy, especially in the current environment of large in-person and online classes. Taking the time to leave a positive impression on your professors while you are enrolled in their classes and interacting with them outside class makes asking for a letter of recommendation much easier.
Choosing the Professor to Ask
Ask a professor who teaches in your major. Professors in your major are the most likely to understand the discipline knowledge and skills that should be highlighted.
Ask a professor who knows you – get to know your professors. It is easy to be an anonymous student in class or online and only interact with your professors if you have a question or complaint about the class. You can make a lasting impression on your professor by introducing yourself, telling them what you find interesting about the subject, and asking questions.
Tips for In-Person Class Students:
- Introduce yourself early in the semester. Also, when you have a question or comment on the lesson topic, take a few minutes after class to talk with your professor.
- Drop by for a short chat during office hours.
Tips for Online Class Students:
- Write an email to introduce yourself.
- Request a Zoom Meeting (15 to 30 minutes max) during office hours to introduce yourself and discuss the topics that you are learning.
Help your professor write you a Letter of Recommendation by supplying information about you and your opportunity. What are your aspirations, what have you done in other classes, what student organizations you are part of; these are all things that your professor needs to know to write a complete letter of recommendation.
Tips for In-Person and Online Students:
- Provide a description of the opportunity, job, or school and why you are applying.
- Provide an updated resume that highlights experience, academics, extracurricular activities, and honors.
- Make sure to be clear about the deadline and give the professor plenty of time (at least 3 weeks if possible)
- If you are applying for multiple opportunities, make sure to provide them all at once, so that your professor can be efficient and write any needed letters at the same time.
- Any other details like volunteer experiences and successes in other areas.
Letter of Recommendation Etiquette
- Always ask before you use the Professor as a reference, you will want them to be aware that they may be contacted.
- Do not assume that the professor will write a letter.
- Take a “No” with grace. It does not mean that they do not like you or you aren’t a good student. Some professors do not write letters of recommendation. The professor also may not be able to because of time constraints.
- Ask your professor to send you confirmation after they have sent the letter.
- It is okay to send a reminder to your professor a week before the letter is due if you have not received any confirmation of the letter being sent.
- DO NOT HARASS YOUR PROFESSOR with multiple requests.
- After the letter is written, do not forget to write a Thank You Email.
Also, do not forget to update the professor on the outcome. They will want to know and will probably be more than happy to write you another letter of recommendation.