How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation: A Complete Guide to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation: A Complete Guide to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation
How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation - Photo by Scott Graham from Unsplash
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Tripboba.com - A letter of recommendation is needed when you’re applying for a job, a graduate program, or an internship. While it’s a necessary thing, the process can be a stressful experience. Luckily, professors are usually asked for letters of recommendation and they'll be more than happy to help push you closer to your academic or career goals. So, you don't have to worry too much.

Regarding this topic, Tripboba would like to take you through this article of how to ask for a letter of recommendation to help you get your dream job, graduation program, or internship. Stick with us for useful tips!

How to Ask a Professor for a Letter of Recommendation

How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation - Photo by Michal Parzuchowski from Unsplash

When it comes to professors, they take recommendation letter writing very seriously, and they also expect students to do just that. The recommendations reflect not only the quality of the student, but also the integrity of the professors and the universities.

Professors must be objective and specific about the fitness of students for certain positions. For example, if employers and graduate schools learn not to believe praise from an SPU faculty member, it jeopardized the reputation of the entire university. And it damages the prospects of all SPU students seeking positions after graduation.

Before Tripboba shows you how to ask for a letter of recommendation, know what are the common mistakes to avoid below!

  • Never assume that the professor will be willing to write a letter. Always ask first, though professors have written letters to you in the past. You also have to ask permission to include the professor's name as a reference on the application, although no letter is required.
  • Don't just hand over forms and info with an office assistant or send them as an email engagement, but you can meet the professor in person to discuss your qualifications, what are the requirements, as well as the deadlines.
  • If a professor refuses your request, it might hurt a little. But don't take or assume that you are a bad student or a bad person. The professor may have short experience with you to write an effective letter, or they may have inadequate knowledge of the position or institutions, or they may feel that your skills are more suitable for a different position, school, or career path.
  • Don't harass professors about whether they sent you the letter unless they asked you to send a reminder. You can have the professor email you to confirm that the letter was sent.

Know Who to Ask for an Academic Reference

  • People who are familiar with your work and academic performance are excellent choices for recommendations as you start your career. You may not have much related work experience in your chosen field, and your professors can talk about the knowledge and skills you have demonstrated that will help you succeed in your targeted industry.
  • If possible, ask for a reference letter from a professor or advisor who knows you well and respects your work and character. Important tip: don't ask professors for references if you were frequently late or absent from class or didn’t get a good grade.
  • Ideally, pick someone you have talked to outside of classroom – for example during work hours or at departmental activities.
  • Also, respect people's schedules. If possible, ask for reference letters a few weeks before the semester ends or when you need them.

Now, take a look at how to ask for a letter of recommendation below!

Even if you already have a positive relationship with your professor, it's important to be wise when asking for a recommendation. You have to remember that professors teach many students.

While they may have a very positive general impression of you, the most convincing references will ask them to provide sufficient detail to back up their positive statement. You can help them achieve this by providing some of these details when you make your request.

1. Prepare a Summary Document

Prepare a summary document that lists each course you took with the professor and references any papers or projects you successfully completed. You can also include a grade for the individual project as well as an overall grade for the course. If you have saved some well-received papers, which have bright comments, provide copies of these documents.

2. Give Your Resume

Share your resume to provide the professor with a summary of your extracurricular achievements and your work experience. Describe in writing the type of job you are looking for and the qualifications you focus on.

3. Include a Cover Letter

Including a copy of your cover letter can help with this process. If possible, designate specific classes or projects in which you may have exhibited some core skills that you would like to emphasize in the recommendation.

4. Request a Meeting If Possible

If you are still in school or live near campus, try arranging face-to-face a meeting with the professor. Ask if a faculty member would be comfortable supporting you as a candidate for the type of job you are applying for. After that, ask if you could stop by during work hours or have a coffee chat to discuss the matter further. Then, follow up with your prospective faculty email or reference letter with the attached document.

If that's not possible, a phone call or email exchange works just fine too.

5. Be Clear about What You Want

Be sure to state exactly what you ask them to do such as writing a general letter of recommendation for your credential file, to writing a recommendation for a specific job, or permission to list it as a reference.

6. Give as Much Notice as You Can

Notify your faculty members as early as possible. Because towards the end of the semester, they may be saddled with paper assessments and examinations as well as writing recommendations for the other students.

7. What to Include in an Email Request

When sending e-mail messages, include your name in the subject line. If you don't know the professor or advisor very well, you want to make sure to explain your connection in the email.

The more detailed information you provide, the easier it will be for reference authors to support you.

8. Ask for a Recommendation Template

You can also request for a recommendation template for a proper way to do it.

There you go! How to ask for a letter of recommendation to a professor is done. For more valuable information on how to ask for a letter of recommendation, you can check out other pages!

How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation Email

How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation - Photo by Scott Graham from Unsplash

If you happen to request a letter of recommendation through email, you might as well want take a look at how to ask for a letter of recommendation via email below.

Things to Keep in Mind When Requesting a Letter of Recommendation Through Email

1. Keep It Short

As we have mentioned before, professors are busy people with a lot of things on their desks. They have to prepare for lectures and tests, handle other departmental issues, deal with many requests from students, and so on.

Therefore, unless you want to be ignored, you should keep your email short and sweet. You need to focus on one main thing, which is getting them to approve your recommendation letter. So, do not include unnecessary information and details in the email.

2. Get Straight to the Point

They will ask if they agree to write a letter of recommendation and need more information from you. They may even request a face-to-face meeting to review your resume, so you can save all the additional details for later.

3. Remind Them Who You Are

As Tripboba has mentioned earlier, one of the biggest mistakes many students make is emailing the professor assuming that the professor knows who they are.

The professor interacts with many students every day, and unless you communicate with the professor by email regularly, then you should remind the professor who you are. This will avoid confusion and ensures that the professor has a good idea of who they are writing the recommendation for.

4. Make Your Request Specific and Assertive

You don't want to just ask the professor if they can write a letter of recommendation for you. Obviously, the professor can write a letter of recommendation! Making such a weak request will only result in the usual letters of recommendation which may not help your application in any way. Instead, you want to be more specific about the type of recommendation letter you want.

Therefore, instead of saying “can you write a letter of recommendation for me?” ask something like, “would you be willing to write me a strong letter of recommendation that will help me get considered for this position?”

Keep in mind that being specific and assertive doesn't mean you have to be arrogant or demanding. It will only cause your request to be ignored.

5. Do Not Assume Your Request Will Be Accepted

When you’re writing e-mail to a professor, never assume that the professor will automatically approve your request. The professor is under no obligation to write a letter of recommendation for you.

By agreeing to write it, they are only helping you and doing you a favor. So, when writing an email to your professor, it should be in the form of a request that gives the professor space to decline the request.

Professors are more likely to grant your request when you ask kindly, than when they think you are asking for a letter of recommendation.

If the professor refuses your request, this might hurt a little. But, don't read too much into it. Having a professor turn down your request doesn't mean you're a bad student.

The professor may turn down your request because they don't think they know enough to write a good letter, or maybe they don't have enough knowledge of the position you're applying for to write an effective letter. Therefore, if a professor denies your request, don't hold it against him/her. Just ask another professor.

Writing the Email

1. Use a Professional Subject Line

Your professor probably has a lot of email in his/her inbox, so you want them to know up front what your email is all about. You have to explain it in the subject line. If your subject line doesn't describe what they expect from the email, it's possible that your email is being ignored.

Here is an example of a good subject line: "Request for Letter of Recommendation."

2. Use the Right Salutation

Start your email with the right kind of greeting, as you would on a formal letter. Unless you have a first name basis with the professor, address them using their professional title. For instance, suppose you wrote the request to Dr. Robert Langdon, who is your professor of molecular biology. In this case, you should use the greeting "Dear Dr. Langdon."

If you are using a first name with the professor, it is okay to address them by their first name in the email, in which case the greeting would be “Dear Robert.”

3. Introduce Yourself and Refresh the Professor's Mind

After the greeting, you should start by introducing yourself to the professor and writing a few sentences. This will help the professor remember who you are. Note: keep this section short.

One or two sentences is enough. The best way to do this is to say your name and mention which class of the professor class you have taken.

If you have had a one-on-one interaction with the professor, you can also briefly mention it. 

4. State the Purpose of Your Email

After you've introduced yourself, you'll want to move on to the purpose of your email immediately. If you continue to talk about irrelevant things, professors may stop reading your email.

Explain that you asked for a letter of recommendation and tell the professor why you need the letter. Below is an example of how to explain the purpose of an email:

5. Explain Why You Choose Them

With your email goal out of the way, use the next paragraph to explain why you chose them specifically to write a letter of recommendation for you. There are several different ways to approach this section.

You can talk about your relationship with the professor, what you have learned from them, and how it has affected your life.

Alternatively, you can tell more about yourself, why you’re attracted to the position you are applying for, and why you think this professor's recommendation would be of great help to you in securing the spot.

If the professor has a relationship with the organization you applied to, you can mention it on this section. Remember to keep your reasons professional. You are also allowed to use a little flattery here.

When explaining why you chose the professor, always use genuine reasons. The professor may easily see a fabricated story, especially if they know you well, and this may reduce your chances of getting a good recommendation from them.

6. Mention What You Hope They’ll Say

If you don't mention what you want your professor to include in your recommendation, you have no way to ensure that they actually talk about what you want. Therefore, you should mention a little about what you hope your professor will talk about.

If there is information about you that the professor doesn't know, but you would like to be mentioned in the recommendation letter, you can also insert it at this point. However, you have to do it wisely. About what you want them to say, don't explicitly tell the professor. Instead, you should name them as a subtle suggestion.

7. Attach Other Important Documents

If the professor accepts your request, they'll need more information about you. You don't want them to email you back and forth asking for this information or anything else.

To make it as easy as possible for the professor, you can attach other relevant documents to the email, such as your resume, a list of classes you have taken, activities you may have participated in, any awards you got, and so on.

8. Tell Them How to Submit the Recommendation

In most cases, professors are required to upload or submit letters of recommendation themselves. If this is the case, you should give your professor instructions on how to send a letter of recommendation as well as a due date so they don't send it too late.

9. Express Gratitude

The last paragraph of your email should thank the professor for their consideration, whether they wrote the letter or not.

Let them know that you appreciate their time reading your email, as well as the effort that is going to be put in writing the letter.

Also, express your appreciation for everything you get from making them your professor.

10. Close Professionally

Remember that this is a professional email, so you should close it professionally.

Don't leave the email hanging. You can close it with something like "Greetings, Sienna Williams."

How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation for College

How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation - Photo by Element5 Digital from Unsplash

1. Make sure to select a faculty member that knows you well, preferably in a variety of contexts. Employers and graduate schools read hundreds of reference letters, most of which are filled with general praise. Special reference letters are more likely to be noticed and appreciated. The more a professor or supervisor knows about you, the more specific letter will.

2. Make a formal request for your professor (by email or by appointment), asking him/her if he/she will be willing to write the letter or fill out a form on your behalf. Explain what is the purpose of the recommendation and why you chose the professor. You need to give the professor time to consider your request.

3. Ask early by making an appointment to discuss the recommendation in at least three weeks before the deadline – preferably a month or so. Especially if you need more than one letter. Professors have very busy schedules and need sufficient time to write wisely and distinctive letters.

4. Provide information about the position. The more professors know about the position or the school you want to go to, the easier they can fit the letters in a certain direction audience. You can bring the following materials to your appointment:

  • A description of the job or graduate school you are applying for. This requires some research on your part, and this will help you assess how fit you are to the position. If you apply to multiple places, you can bring all your references request at once.
  • The application forms and materials, with clearly indicated deadlines and the relevant sections are filled in. If the application asks whether you give up your right to view the letter of recommendation, you’re recommended that you agree to ignore it, guaranteeing that it is honest and trustworthy. Letters for students those who do not give up their right to see them will be taken seriously or neglected.
  • A pre-addressed envelope with the appropriate postage.

5. Give information about yourself. The more professor knows about your previous work, your extracurricular interests, and your aspirations, the more specific they can be about your motivation and talents. You can bring the following materials to your appointment:

  • Assignments or graded papers you completed for the professor’s class. (Get your graded paper at the end of the quarter!) If you don't have multilevel job, print a new copy. (Save your coursework!)
  • An updated resume highlighting relevant experience and skills to the position. Don't limit your resume to academic pursuits – including work experience, rewards, and extracurriculars activities.
  • A transcript. This is usually unnecessary, but some faculty may ask for it.
  • A written description of your interests and career aspirations – the reason you’re applying for the position. If you're applying to graduate school, bring a draft of your "statement of purpose."
  • List of other helpful details about your work and experience with the professor.
  • List of your other references. If the professor knows who else wrote a letter on your behalf, he/she can calibrate the letter to play a certain power which other references may not understand. You can ask which qualities you would like every letter-writer to emphasize.

6. Check again whether the letter has arrived before the deadline. If not, contact the professor. Letters are often lost in the mail or in scrambling applications.

7. Send a thank you note to the writer. The faculty can take several hours to build one letter.

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