A Guide to Asking Professors for Letters of Recommendation

Feb. 01, 2019 by Ashley Sava

Asking Professors for Letter of Recommendation

Having a general letter of recommendation from a professor who thinks highly of you is something that you definitely want to keep for your credential files.

If you still have plenty of time left before you graduate and start applying for jobs, you might think that you don’t need to request these letters yet. You are wrong!

The best time to ask for a recommendation letter is when you are still fresh in the mind of the professor who thinks you’ve got it going on. While you’re still in their class, or shortly after you finish the course, is the right time to ask for the letter.

You might not have the same connections with the next semester’s faculty, so when you have that special bond, get the letter. Your professors are busy teaching classes and have several other students who might also be asking for these letters.

Here’s the right way to ask for a letter of recommendation to make it easiest for your professors. 

Have a face-to-face discussion first

Ask your professor in person if they are willing to write the letter. It’s always best to make this kind of request face-to-face.

Make sure you give them ample time to complete the letter (another reason not to wait until the last minute to ask)!

Assuming they agree...

Send a prepared summary document

Before you even make the ask, having a summary document that lists each course you took with the professor that references any papers or projects that you did well on will make it simple for your professor to get inspiration for the letter.

Consider listing grades you received for individual projects, as well as the overall grade for the course (if you have reached that point).

Supply copies of any well received papers where your professor might have provided you with glowing feedback, too. 

Include your resume

In order for your professor to be able to tailor your recommendation letter to your goals and qualifications, send a resume with your extracurricular achievements and your work experience listed.

Indicate the types of jobs you're interested in applying for.

Write a thank you letter

Don't forget to be respectful! A thank you letter, especially a handwritten one, goes a long way.

Be sure to send them the note less than one week after they write your recommendation. 

Keep them posted on your job search progress

They deserve to know when you land your dream job! Take time to send them an email when you get that big offer.

Keep in touch with these special professors as you might want to use them as references in the future. 

For more information on preparing for life outside college, visit the Center for Vocation & Professional Development!

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