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When applying for a new job, an internship, or a graduate-school program you may be asked to submit a letter of recommendation to help you stick out from the crowd.
When you’re a student, it might be difficult to find an appropriate source to write a letter of recommendation for you. Oftentimes, professors are more than happy to write their students character references.
But first, you have to ask.
Asking your professor for a letter of recommendation can be difficult, especially if you don’t know them well. If you ask far enough in advance, normally your teacher will be happy to help you. In order to be courteous and professional, try asking your profession in person, with a written request. You can also send them an email.
Below, we outline ways to ask your professor to write a recommendation letter.
It’s important to choose your professor wisely.
Use someone who is familiar with your academic work and performance. Choosing a teacher you have had personal interactions with is best. If possible, make sure your recommender can articulate your skills and personal anecdotes that aren’t reflected elsewhere, such as your ability to work well with a team, or your dedication to your chosen field of study.
When giving the professor initial notice, it’s important to ensure you ask them if writing a review for you is something they feel they can do adequately. It’s also best practice to give your professor an opportunity to decline your request.
Remember, your teachers may have other priorities to attend to or simply not feel comfortable writing a letter. It’s better to get an answer in the beginning so you can move on with choosing a recommender.
You and your letter will be better off with a recommendation that is positive and specific, rather than one that is lukewarm and vague.
As soon as your potential employer or program asks you for a letter of recommendation, reach out to your professor to ask if it’s something they would be comfortable with. The email itself can be short and to the point, while maintaining professionalism, to let them know you’ve found a potential new job or graduate school program you are hoping to attend.
As it gets closer to the end of the semester, professors may be inundated with grading papers and exams as well as other recommendation letter requests from other students.
It’s also common for students to ask for a letter of recommendation after graduation. Most students after graduation are either on the hunt for a new job or looking for their graduate school program and want to line some letters of recommendation up in preparation.
This strategy allows you to avoid needing to repeat the request every time you’re applying.
You can also preemptively begin this process during your coursework. If you are in your final semester, consider developing a dialogue with a professor you enjoy. Make sure they know your name, that you contribute during lessons, and ask valuable questions.
These are good foundational tasks that will help your credibility when you finally do ask for your recommendation letter.
Even if you have a strong relationship with your professor, it’s important to maintain your professionalism when asking for a recommendation letter. Your teacher likely has a wide variety of students and may be spread thin. Although your professor may be able to write you a great letter off the top of their head, the best way to ensure your letter includes all of the details you need is to provide them with the appropriate information.
The easiest way to do this is to prepare a summary document.
A summary document lists the courses you’ve taken over your time at school and references any projects or accomplishments that you are proud of completing. If you have copies of these, be sure to include them in your document.
Additionally, consider including grades you received on these accomplishments and overall grades for your class.
Next, provide your up-to-date resume to give your professor an adequate summary of your achievements outside of school as well as any relevant work experience. If you choose, including a cover letter can be helpful to provide your professor with the highlights of your classes or projects, where you believe you have showcased some of the skills that may be relevant for what you are applying for.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to follow up with your professor if you haven’t heard back from them in a timely manner. It’s possible they may have missed your note or forgotten about it due to other priorities. Equally as importantly, be sure to follow up with them afterwards and send them a thank you note. It’s important to show your appreciation for their time and efforts.
If you can’t ask your professor in person, then email works just fine. Students should consider sending an initial email to ask whether or not your professor can write a letter for you. If your professor agrees, suggest to meet during a time that works for your teacher, like during their office hours, to discuss what the professor is considering writing.
Finally, make sure you include all of the details your professor needs, as discussed above. Don’t forget to include things like the job description, your summary document, as well as instructions, contact information, any relevant postal or email addresses, and a due date for when it must be completed. It’s a good idea to try to not spring this on top of your professor out of the blue. Give them a chance to think about your request and set up a time to meet and discuss further.
Oftentimes you may need a recommendation letter but are fearful you don’t know your professor well enough. In these types of cases, it’s important to guide them along the way and provide them with more information than they might actually need. Be sure you include any and all feedback you received from this professor during your time with them, as well as a transcript of your grades, if possible.
Be sure to try and dig up a personal anecdote from your class time together. It doesn’t have to be a specific interaction you had together, but rather a tidbit you may have found helpful during their lessons. This will help them write about your engagement in their class.
I am hoping to get a letter of recommendation from you because I found your class to be extremely valuable for me and my studies. I felt that our class discussion about religious organizations showcased my ability to debate as well as my passion for theology.
Dear Professor Anderson,
I am reaching out to you today to request a letter of recommendation. I have greatly benefited from the courses I have taken with you over the past three years. I am hoping that you feel as though you know me well enough to consider my request.
As you can see from the attached cover letter, I am applying for marketing positions in the software industry which require submitting a letter of recommendation. I hope to showcase both my technical prowess and passion for marketing to these potential employers
I have included a summary sheet to consolidate my key accomplishments as well as a refresher on my end-of-year project. Additionally, I have attached my resume and transcript which will bring you up to date on my relevant work experience and extracurricular activities.
Please let me know as soon as possible if you are comfortable writing a character reference for my time in your classroom. I am more than happy to answer any questions or concerns, or to schedule some time to meet in person to discuss this further.
Thank you so much for the valuable time you’ve spent with me in your classroom and for your consideration on this request.
Dear Mrs. Hamilton,
My name is Martha Wall and I am a student in your business marketing class. I was also in your Intro to Marketing class my junior year. I am currently applying for a variety of internships and they require a letter of recommendation. I was hoping you might write one for me.
Your classes were eye opening for me as a future marketing professionalism. I took great interest in social media marketing which is the field I hope to enter. I am so grateful for having such an informed and passionate instructor to offer me guidance. I have attached a copy of my resume as well as a summary of my accomplishments, grades, and extracurricular activities. I’d also be happy to discuss this further in person.
The letter of recommendation is due on January 9th. You can send it to my email email@example.com. Thank you for taking the time to consider my request. I hope to hear from you soon!
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