When you apply for internships, jobs or graduate school, you may be required to submit academic recommendation letters with your application. While you may ask for such letters in your junior or senior year, it is important to remember that you will begin laying the groundwork for these letters from the first day of class. Faculty cannot recommend you for positions or programs unless you have provided them with sufficient evidence that you are worthy of their recommendation. This evidence comes largely from your performance in class and your level of commitment to your studies. So throughout your college years, make sure you speak up, try your best, and get to know your professors!
When the time comes to ask for a letter, many students are unaware of the expectations professors have about how such requests should be made. The list below provides some tips on how to request letters from you professors in a way that will maximize their abilty to write you an excellent letter.
- Ask for the letter a minimum of two weeks before it is due. It takes time to write a good personalized recommendation letter. Asking at the last minute is not only disrespectful of a faculty member’s time, but also may result in a weak letter.
- Ask for the letter via an email. Be sure to start the email with a greeting and the professor’s name and to sign the email with your name. You should send an individual email to each professor from whom you are requesting a letter. Be sure to use language that requests rather than demands the letter.
- Provide the faculty member with full information about the position for which you are applying. Include an online posting if available.
- Let the faculty member know if there are any particular skills you are hoping they might highlight. Remind the faculty member of assignments you have completed that show your qualifications. Include your resume, the application letter you have written, and/or your personal statement for graduate school.
- Be sure to let the faculty member know where to send the letter (or to give it to you directly). If the letter needs to be mailed, provide the faculty member with a stamped, addressed (typed address) envelope.
- If a faculty member says they are not sure they know you well enough to write a letter, you should probably find another letter writer. Often this is their polite way of saying they will not write you a strong letter.