In addition to school transcripts, graded assignments, projects, and other formal paperwork, colleges insist on a letter of recommendation as part of your graduate school’s application file.

But why is it so important that it can make or break the evaluator's choice of picking you as a student of their college?

While transcripts just show your academic performance in each course, a letter of recommendation gives insights into the personality of the student who is seeking admission.

It reflects the student’s strengths, interests, capabilities, and skills. The letter also helps the admission panel measure your knowledge and relevant characteristics in the academic and extra-curricular fields.

https://media.giphy.com/media/eKNrUbDJuFuaQ1A37p/giphy.gifOriginal: SourceThis article will teach you how to request a letter of recommendation from your professor.

Request For a Letter of Recommendation From Your Professor: 9 Tips to Consider

The college will be able to decide if you are a good fit for the chosen graduate school/program on the basis of what your professor says about you because, at the end of the day, not everything is about your grade or test scores in school.

Negative letters of recommendation are rarely given to colleges these days, so colleges always expect positive ones to come through.

But most of these “positive” letters are just the same run-of-the-mill, generic profiling, which have nothing distinctive that will stand out amongst thousands of other letters of recommendation. Hence, one must take this entire process seriously.

Let’s take a look at nine tips you must consider while requesting a letter of recommendation from your professor.

1. Choose a faculty member who knows you

It would be ideal to ask for a letter of recommendation from a professor who knows you, who has a positive impression about you, and has taught you a core subject like English, Maths, Science, etc., in a recent span of time.

Graduate schools get tons of applications with letters of recommendation that are very generic, and filled with basic praises. So, reach out to a professor with whom you share a great student-teacher relationship.

The professor who has a good opinion of you would know your personal characteristics, accomplishments, and shortcomings if any. They would be aware of your specific skill-set, your academic work as well as your overall performance.

Thus, they would be able to develop a specific, genuine, well-rounded letter of recommendation for you.

2. Ask in advance and in-person

Visiting the professor in person during office hours to request a letter of recommendation shows that you are willing to invest time and energy.

It is always preferable to add a personal touch rather than just writing them an email. You will be able to explain all the necessary details to them as well as make it simpler for the professor to ask you questions and understand what you require. This then enhances the chance of getting a positive response.

Don't forget to ask them in advance as well. As deadlines start approaching by the end of the semester, some professors get very occupied and may not have enough time to frame a thoughtful and distinctive letter.

Some have a cut-off date for receiving requests for letters of recommendation, so don't hesitate to ask them informally, about their procedures and policies, and the timeline they are comfortable with. Make sure you send them an email encapsulating your discussion.

3. Explain why you chose them

After scheduling a meeting with your professor, you could give them a brief about why you specifically chose them to write your letter of recommendation.

Professors appreciate learning how they have made an impact on the student’s academic life. Talk about the relationship you have with them and how much you have learned from their teaching.

Additionally, you could also talk a little about yourself, and explain what interests you in the course that you are applying for, and how the professor’s letter of recommendation will enhance your application.

4. Prepare a summary document

It is important to give your professor a proper rundown of all the important details that need to be addressed for the process of writing and sending out a letter of recommendation.

The more they would know about the position and how it would benefit you, the better they would be able to tailor the letter according to its specific audience.

Prepare a summary sheet, listing down important details like the description of the graduate school that you are applying to, the subject that you intend on taking up, the contact information of the school, and links/portals to help in receiving and sending out the letters of recommendation.

The due date for sending it out should also be present clearly, written in bold. The idea is to help them help by, making it as easy for your professor to write the letter of recommendation.

Here’s a video by Khan Academy on the elements of a strong letter of recommendation


5. Provide your resume and cover letter

When requesting a letter of recommendation from your professor, you need to provide inputs about yourself, your school grades, and subjects. Prepare a resume and a cover letter about your:

  • Accomplishments
  • Skills
  • Qualifications
  • Awards
  • Extracurricular activities

Prepare a folder for your professor which enlists all your past work experience and completed projects, graded assignments, and a strong statement of purpose that details your ambitions and dreams.

You should also focus on the reasons for choosing this specific graduate school, and applying to the program.

This entire process makes it easier for the professor to understand your position and write a strong and genuine letter of recommendation.

It also shows that you are detail-oriented, ahead of time, and have researched all the important information for your professor to make writing the letter of recommendation a non-time consuming, simpler task.

6. Ask the kind of letter you might expect

You need to be certain that the letter of recommendation your chosen graduate school will be receiving is a well-balanced, analytical one.

You cannot be in the position to get a generic, half-hearted letter in your credential file or worse a negative one that can disrupt all your chances of getting into your preferred college and courses.

Original: SourceSubtly mention what you would expect your professor to include in the letter of recommendation. If there are any points that you would want to emphasize about yourself, share it with them.

If you feel that your professor is hesitant or doesn't seem to have the time or patience to take it up, move on to another source who can guarantee a strong letter for your college admissions.

7. Give them an expected time-frame

Give your professors enough time to write you a letter of recommendation. Teachers can get busy, or have a mountain of assignments to grade and other paperwork.

They might also receive other letters of recommendation requests from students to send out by the end of the semester. So, don't give them the task of writing you a great one at the last moment.

It is preferable to give them a month’s time to write you a letter before the admissions deadline closes. This will give them enough time to sort out their work and write you a strong, extensive, and personal letter of recommendation.

8. Follow up

One of the most fundamental but often ignored steps is the process of following up.

In most cases, the professors are supposed to upload the letter of recommendation by themselves. However, as your deadline approaches, it is always a good idea to follow up with your professor via email or in-person and see if your letter is in progress.

At this time, you can also subtly put in a reminder of the application deadline so as to not let your professor forget or be misinformed about the timeline. Follow-ups denote seriousness and ensure that no deadline is missed at the time of applying for admission.

9. Express your gratitude

This is the last point in your process of requesting a letter of recommendation from your professor and is a very imperative step.

Your professors are taking out time from their busy schedules and building a strong, positive, and a genuine letter of recommendation for you, so that they can assist in getting you into the college you desire to be in.

Expressing your honest, heartfelt gratitude always matters and gives a great impression of the person you are.

Be effusive in your praise and don't hold back, as it is always nice for the professors to feel acknowledged. In addition to that, express how much you have gained from this specific professor, professionally and personally.

If the letter of recommendation gets you into the college of your choice, make sure to give your professor a call and thank them again, personally.

Conclusion: Politely Ask for a Letter of Recommendation from Your Professor

To reiterate, requesting a letter of recommendation from your professor can be an anxiety-prone experience.

Since your professor is taking out time to add value to your application process for your further education, not following a proper protocol would just be unfair and unethical. Proper method, courtesy, and attention to detail can make all the difference in this process.

These guidelines will help you ensure that your requests will be seen as professional and organized, which will finally result in you receiving a stellar letter of recommendation.