As if you didn’t have enough reasons to visit your professors during office hours. Recommendation letters can play significant roles in internship, job or scholarship applications, so establishing relationships with your professors is important. For recommendation letters also consider GSIs, supervisors at your job or volunteer organization, or anyone else who can possibly put in a good word for you.
Here are some tips for requesting recommendation letters.
Establish relationships early.
You are one student among a sea of many faces, so start talking to professors at the beginning of the semester. Try introducing yourself at the end of the first day of class. Actively participate in class, ask questions. Make office hour visits, whether to inquire about that next midterm or just to have casual conversation.
Different professors require different amounts of time to prepare recommendation letters. I have had one professor say I should have asked a month ahead, another said a week was more than enough for her. If the professor is particularly popular, definitely ask at least a month ahead. Also be careful if the recommendation letter is for a popular application. Realize that there may be many students who are applying for the same thing and may have asked the same professor.
Ask in person.
It is just a lot more polite, especially for a personal request like this.
Have documents prepared.
Majority of professors will ask what you are applying for and request your essay that goes along with the application. Print out and bring the application information or e-mail it to the professor. Give the professor your application essay, even if it is still a rough draft. This allows the professor to better understand your motivation for applying, which will help them to write a better tailored letter for you.
Don’t be afraid to ask.
Just do it. After all, what’s the worse thing you can hear? A “No.”
Photo courtesy of bburky via Flickr (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)
Check out the video below about asking for recommendation!