Letters of recommendation are important while you’re enrolled in a college and university, as well as career prospects later on. So while there is some pressure in asking for one, it’s something that professors are usually happy to write, so long as if you’re prepared.
Don’t stress too much, though. Our guide will provide some advice for how to best go about securing a solid letter of recommendation. Ready? Here’s what you’ll need to consider:
First, who should you ask for a letter of recommendation?
For starters, make sure you understand the requirements for the letter of recommendation. This means the dates, deadlines and other specifics. For example, some require a recommendation from someone who taught a specific course or worked closely together.
Secondly, it is logical for you to ask a professor or teacher that you know well. And one you feel would write a strong review that is unique and personal to you. A sound letter of recommendation should reference examples that showcase your unique abilities and speak to you as an individual.
Something to keep in mind – it’s better to ask a professor that can speak credibly on your behalf than someone that simply gave you a good grade.
When should you ask for a letter of recommendation?
If you’re asking someone to write the letter of recommendation, make sure you give them enough time to write it. This means don’t wait until a day before it’s due to ask. Generally speaking, consider giving them at least 5 weeks before the letter is due. The reason for this is to give them enough time to ask you any questions, write their recommendation, as well as balance other tasks they may have at hand. Professors are busy people, so give plenty of time.
How should you ask?
Every teacher and professor will their own preferences, but it’s best to ask in person when you have the opportunity. This could mean during office hours, or visiting with them briefly before or after class. Assuming your teacher agrees or is open to write the letter, it is best to email them the details to help them with the ask.
Alternatively, you could send your initial ask for the recommendation via email. But make sure you propose a time for you and the professor to sit down (during office hours or before/after class) to review the requirements together.
What should you include in your ask?
To help make everything clear for everyone, make sure to include the following details in your email follow-up with your professor:
- The school or program for which you’re applying
- Role or position
- Deadlines and dates
- Who the later is for
- Why you are asking them specifically for the letter
- Anything else the application asks for in a letter of recommendation – work sample, project, portfolio, etc.
Additionally, let your teacher or professor know that you will provide them with an addressed and stamped envelope to make their lives easier if it needs to be physically mailed.
What to do after your teacher writes you a letter of recommendation
Be sure to let your professor know the outcome of your application — successful or not. Obviously, thank them for their time in any event. You might be able to use them for another letter of recommendation in the future. Plus it’s still good to maintain a positive relationship with your instructor.
Dear Professor [Last Name],
I hope you’re doing well! I wanted to reach out and ask if you’d be willing to write me a letter of recommendation for (mention the purpose – e.g., grad school, internship, scholarship, etc.). I really enjoyed your (specific class or interaction) and I believe your perspective would be incredibly valuable for this opportunity.
We worked together in (mention specific class or project) and I really appreciated (mention what you appreciated about the class/project/professor). Your insights have been instrumental in my learning journey and I think they’d be a great asset for this application.
If you’re able to help, I’d be happy to provide you with anything you might need, like my resume, transcripts, or a draft of my personal statement. The deadline is (mention the deadline), so any guidance on timing would be fantastic.
Thank you so much for considering my request. I really value the impact you’ve had on my academic growth and I’m looking forward to the possibility of learning from your mentorship in the future.
Let me know if there’s any other information you’d like from me. I’m available to chat at your convenience.