How to ask for a letter of recommendation?

September 22, 2022
By AdmissionSight

How to ask for a letter of recommendation?

How to ask for a letter of recommendation? How do you go and ask someone to write you one and what should you include in your request?

Even if you already know the value of a strong letter of recommendation, it does not necessarily follow that the process of asking for one will become simpler. Thankfully, there are methods to make this request a bit less nerve-wracking for both you and the person you are asking.

So, how to ask for a letter of recommendation? First, give some careful consideration to the people you intend to ask. You shouldn’t expect too much from anyone. Be careful to ask people who are familiar with both you and the work that you have done. Even though it can be impressive to get a letter of recommendation from someone with a high position in the company, the result can be negative if that person writes a generic letter of recommendation for you without having any true knowledge of you and your skills. And even if it doesn’t hurt, it won’t help.

Three students using a laptop in a table.

It is very important to know how to ask for a letter of recommendation properly. When it comes to making the letter request, a modest amount of flattery can go a very long way. You can begin the conversation by expressing how much you’ve valued their input and how much you’ve appreciated working with them.

You should also do everything you can to make the process of composing the recommendation letter as easy as possible by providing them with all the information they require. This could mean reflecting on your work ethic or the impact you had on your team in a previous project or highlighting a particular skill set that is congruent with the types of program you are seeking to take in college.

Whatever it is, be sure you have a good understanding of what it is you’re trying to find, and this involves being crystal clear about the timeline you are working with as well. Keep in mind that you are making a request, therefore you need to make sure that your expectations are reasonable. It is a good idea to provide them with at least a week, but ideally, more time to create the recommendation letter and send it back to you.

How to ask for a letter of recommendation from a professor?

If you are currently in the process of completing your secondary studies, it is quite likely that you will want to inquire with a professor or an academic advisor for a letter of recommendation before you start applying for college admission. Thus, you must know how to ask for a letter of recommendation from a professor correctly.

The recommendations that you receive from professors, particularly those who have had you in numerous classes, can be quite helpful when applying to schools. After all, they have witnessed you conducting analysis, writing, articulating your opinions, and presenting in front of groups. The general high degree and quality of your work can be attested to by your professors. Many academics also have a large number of contacts and they typically have a high degree of credibility.

Two people shaking hands in a room.

The best people to seek for recommendation are those who are familiar with your academic work and performance. Even if you may not have a lot of experience that is directly relevant to your chosen degree, your professors will be able to speak about the knowledge and skills you have displayed that will help you thrive in the degree program that you are aiming for.

Here are some things you have to consider:

  1. Request a letter of recommendation from a professor or advisor who is familiar with your work and has regard for both your work and your character, if possible.
  2. Do not ask a professor for a recommendation if you were chronically late, skipped the class entirely, or did not perform well academically under their tutelage.
  3. In an ideal scenario, pick a person with whom you’ve had a conversation outside of the classroom, such as during activities sponsored by the department.
  4. Also, be considerate of their timetables; if possible, ask for a recommendation letter several weeks before the end of the semester or the date on which you will require it.

How to select the appropriate professors for a letter of recommendation?

It will be great to  ask for a letter of recommendation from a professor whom you can regard as:

  • Someone who has taught you relatively recently.
  • Someone familiar with you on a deep level.
  • Someone who likes you.

In the event that you are unable to locate a single individual who satisfies all of those requirements, the following should take precedence:

  • Someone who is familiar with you and has positive feelings for you.
  • Someone who has instructed you in the recent past.
  • A person who teaches one of the essential subjects.

Overall, it’s important to keep in mind that the schools won’t be able to get to know you much better if the person recommending you isn’t familiar with you.

So, how do you ask a professor for a letter of recommendation? How do you approach a professor about writing a recommendation for you? Even if you have a good relationship with your professor already, it is necessary to exercise tact when approaching them with the request of writing a recommendation for you. You must keep in mind that academics are responsible for instructing a significant number of students.

Even if they may have a very favorable overall view of you, to provide a recommendation that is as compelling as possible, it is necessary for them to provide a significant quantity of specific evidence to back up their positive comments. When you make your request, you can be of assistance to them in achieving this goal by providing some of the information listed below:

Create a document executive summary.

Create a document that provides a summary of your experience with the professor, including a list of the subjects you took with him and a reference to any papers or projects that you completed. Include not only the overall grade for the subject but also the grades for each of the individual projects. You should provide copies of any papers that you have saved that have gotten positive feedback and glowing comments. If you have saved any of these papers, you should provide copies of them.

Provide your resume.

Show the professor your résumé so they can get an overview of your experience and the things you’ve accomplished outside of the classroom. Please provide a written description of the kinds of activities you are interested in, as well as the qualifications you wish to emphasize. Your professor will have an easier time adapting their recommendation to the position if they have a copy of the program description in front of them.

Using al alptop while typing in a table.

Include an accompanying cover letter.

Including a cover letter with your request can be of assistance with this procedure. Indicate, if possible, courses or projects in which you may have exhibited some of the fundamental talents whose development you would like the proposal to encourage.

 Make an appointment to meet if it is possible.

If you know how to ask for a recommendation letter properly, You should make every effort to meet with the instructor in person. If you are still enrolled in school or if you live near the campus, ask the professor whether they would feel comfortable supporting you as a candidate for the types of degree you are applying to, and then ask if you can drop by during office hours or have a conversation over a cup of coffee to explore the topic in further detail.

The next step is to send a follow-up email or letter to the potential professor reference, including the materials that you included. In the event that this is not feasible, an exchange of emails, phone calls, or video chats is also an acceptable substitute.

Make sure that what you want is very clear.

Be sure to be clear about what it is that you are requesting of them, whether it be to compose a general letter of recommendation for your credentials file, to compose a recommendation for a specific position, or to seek their permission to list them as a reference.

Please provide as much time notice as you can.

Please send your request as early as you can. They might be swamped with grading papers and tests near the conclusion of the semester, in addition to drafting letters of reference for a large number of other students. Not only is giving early notice more considerate, but it also provides the person who is writing your recommendation more time to make sure they highlight all of the wonderful traits you possess.

What if I don’t have a relationship with any of my instructors?

If you already know how to ask for a recommendation letter, it is in your best interest to develop a relationship with a teacher before you require their assistance with something. It is not too late to start getting to know any of your teachers, even if you find yourself in a difficult situation and haven’t done so yet.

USC students talking and walking in the campus.

Visit your professor during their office hours and, if they are not otherwise occupied, put your questions to them. This is one of the most helpful things you can do about school, work, and life in general. Learn something about them as well.

Recommendation letter tips:

  • Inquire for real. Don’t only list the name of your instructor on the common application.
  • Ask in person. Asking by email should only be done as a last option. Have some confidence! Unless it is not possible to ask them in person, the best option is to call them first or send them an email but refrain from texting them.
  • Do not ask the professor as a group. Make sure you inquire one-on-one. This will avoid awkwardness and confusion on the professor’s end.
  • Take care of the submissions for the print edition. Even though it’s not the norm anymore, there are still certain institutions that require you to mail in your recommendation letters. If this is the case, it is your responsibility to present the professor with an envelope that has been postage paid and is addressed to the admissions office of the appropriate college.
  • Be aware that your professor may follow a different procedure, and make sure you follow it. For instance, they might provide you with their very own questionnaire for you to complete and they might tell you to fill it out immediately. No matter what it is, make sure you finish it and respect their timeline. Keep in mind that they also have their expectations, they may require you to use their process on how to ask for a recommendation letter so that it will be more organized for them given the fact that you might not be the only one requesting.
  • Get ready to respond the same way. Writing recommendation letters, particularly strong ones, may take up to three hours. Given the fact that instructors are not required to compose these letters in any way, they do not receive compensation for them. In addition to their other responsibilities, they carry them out of a sense of caring and generosity. So, make it a priority to send out handwritten notes of gratitude.

How to ask for a letter of recommendation for college?

Letters of recommendation are a valuable tool for top colleges because they help admissions officers better understand the qualities of applicants. We at AdmissionSight provide academic guidance to help you secure a strong recommendation.

Young woman talking to someone while sitting.

With this, the first step is to find out which of the colleges on your list require a letter of recommendation and determine which of the following dates you will be pursuing, early action, early decision, or regular. Some of these deadlines will be earlier than others. In the end, you will hand over to your recommenders the list that you have curated. One thing to keep in mind is that they will most likely only write one generic letter that will be sent to all of the schools on your list; they will not write individualized letters for each school.

How to ask for a letter of recommendation via email?

If the only thing that is preventing you from moving forward is the fact that asking for a recommendation letter can feel more than a little awkward, then take a deep breath, and just send an email as your last option.

You will have one or more remarkable letters in your possession that you may pull out whenever necessary to demonstrate to the potential program department that you are the kind of applicant they have been looking for.

What should be included in a request sent via email?

  • Make sure that your name is included in the subject line of the email message that you send.
  • Make it clear in the email how well you know the professor or advisor, especially if you don’t know them very well.
  • Along with your CV and cover letter, it can also be beneficial to add a synopsis of related coursework and school activities.
  • The more specific information you give the recommendation writer, the simpler their job will be in endorsing you as a candidate for the program.

How to contact someone via email to request a letter of recommendation?

When you have selected the person who would make the most suitable professional reference to ask for a letter of recommendation, the next step is to figure out how to go about asking for one.

  • Use a simple topic line. The first thing that your referee will see in the pile of emails that they receive from you is the subject line. Get to the point and introduce yourself to the audience. For example Request for [name] to Receive a Letter of Recommendation
  • Bring to their attention who you are. Keep in mind that they have a full schedule and have experience collaborating with a wide variety of individuals. Please restate your introduction. Bring to their memory who you are and how the two of you know each other in the past.
  • When approaching a previous instructor for a letter of recommendation, it is a good idea to specify the school year and the precise subject that you completed under their supervision. Be sure to tell them where you think you excel, when you were his/her student.
  • Don’t be hesitant to acknowledge some of your successes throughout the time you spent working with them; just be sure to do so in a manner that shows gratitude and respect. You can even upload a prior project that you completed and turned in successfully if you want to. Make sure you let them know how much you appreciated working with the company or how much you learned from being in their class. It is beneficial to provide a refresher, particularly if it has been some time since the previous conversation.
  • Make your request in a tone that is respectful and polite.
  • Present your request in a clear and concise manner. Direct and cordial language should be used when asking for a letter of recommendation. Mention the opportunity for which you are submitting the letter and describe how their feedback would be beneficial. Also include the date by which you require a response.

We at AdmissionSight work with students uniquely. We work closely with you to build your best profile and make it powerful. AdmissionSight has more than ten years of experience assisting students in navigating the challenging admissions process required to gain entry to some of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world.

We have one of the highest track records in the industry, as an average of 75% of our students are accepted to an Ivy League university, including Stanford, MIT, University of Chicago, and Caltech.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us today to schedule your initial consultation and set up an appointment.



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