Learn How To Ask a Professor for a Letter of Recommendation

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're a recent graduate or still studying and applying for jobs, internships or an academic programme, a letter of recommendation from a professor can help you with your applications. A letter of recommendation presents your best qualities to a potential employer or to an admissions officer. Understandings how to request one from your professor can further your career ambitions. In this article, we explore what a letter of recommendation is, why it can be important and how to ask your professor for one, plus provide a sample request letter.

What is a letter of recommendation?

A letter of recommendation, sometimes also known as a referral letter, is a document that endorses your best qualities in important areas, such as your skills, academic achievements, goals and other relevant experience. In many instances, potential employers or institutions may ask you for a recommendation letter to further understand you and also validate the information in your resume. A professor or a teacher who is familiar with your background can provide a letter of recommendation which can add value to your job applications, internships or to other academic institutions for further studies.

Related: How To Write a Letter of Recommendation (With Example)

Why is a letter of recommendation from your professor important?

A well-written and compelling letter of recommendation from a professor who knows you well can provide a potential employer or an academic institution with a comprehensive profile of who you are, beyond what your academic qualifications or resume reveal. Your professor can provide insights into your strengths, your interests and passion for particular subjects, your ability to collaborate and your future career goals. Choosing a professor who knows you well means that the content of their letter of recommendation can have a stronger positive impact on your application.

Related: Letter of Recommendation for Graduate School (With Example)

How to ask a professor for a letter of recommendation

Requesting a letter of recommendation from a professor requires planning and having all the necessary information ready. Professors are usually familiar with providing a letter of recommendation, as they may have written some to endorse other students in the past. Here are the steps that you can take to request, manage and receive your letter of recommendation effectively:

1. Consider your application before focusing on the recommendation letter

Before going about requesting a letter of recommendation from your professor, consider and review the details of your application carefully. Depending on the job, internship or academic programme, there may be specifications on the number of recommendation letters and from whom to get them. For example, an academic institution may request two recommendation letters from you.

2. Create a list of professors who may write you a recommendation letter

Start by creating a list of professors who you feel know you well in the academic setting and have knowledge of your extracurricular activities that can be pertinent to your applications. Depending on the number of recommendation letters that you may need to submit, narrow down the list to those professors who can provide a positive recommendation.

The more your professor can detail and personalise your recommendation letter, the stronger the impact and impression it can create on your potential employer or academic institution. Focus on selecting a professor who has the most extensive and personal knowledge of you.

3. Request to meet with your professor

After deciding on which professor you want to approach for your letter, request a meeting with them as their schedule provides. When you meet your professor, outline your request with a conversation revolving around your interests and goals. Explain why you have chosen them to write a recommendation letter. Providing an explanation can convince them to write one for you. Involve them at the early stages of your application if possible, so that they can provide you with valuable insights and considerations to make in your application, which can also affect your letter.

Make sure to ask early enough before thinking about deadlines, as you may encounter situations that may cause changes well into the process, such as your professor declining to provide a letter due to certain reasons and suggesting another professor who can provide a more suitable one instead.

4. Submit a request for a recommendation letter

After meeting with your professor, you may submit a request for a recommendation letter either by email or by writing a letter, whichever your professor feels comfortable receiving. Submitting a request ensures that it goes on record and provides your professor with all the details necessary for them to write a strong and positive letter. Include the date of the request and provide all your contact information. Make sure to include a statement of request and the reason for it, the details of your job, internship or academic programme applications and other requirements that you may have.

End your request stating that you are available to provide any additional information necessary and include the deadline so that you can submit it when it is time to do so.

5. Provide all materials and necessary information

Once your professor agrees to write your letter after submitting your request and having a meeting to discuss it, be sure to supply all the necessary information for them to write your letter. Include all your academic qualifications, such as transcripts and information that you have regarding your applications for which you are submitting your recommendation letter. Depending on your discussion with your professor, they may request other information, such as certificates for any other courses you have taken, evidence of your extracurricular activities, a resume and other information they feel apply to the purpose of writing your letter.

6. Set realistic deadlines for your request

As your professor may write recommendation letters for others while managing their own commitments, try as far as possible to set realistic deadlines so that you can submit your letter on time for your applications. Allow for enough time for your professor to complete the letter. In some instances, you may send a physical copy of your recommendation letter to your potential employer or academic institution, in which case it helps to provide all the necessary details, such as the name of the company or institution and their address, to your professor.

7. Follow up with your professor

After your professor agrees to write you a recommendation letter, periodically follow up with them in case there are any changes or if your professor needs to clarify any concerns with you. In the short period before your submission, you may politely remind them about the deadline to avoid a possible delay in submitting your letter. Be polite, courteous and professional with your professors at all times during the process, as their schedules may be very busy.

8. Stay in touch with your professor

After your letter is complete, write a note to thank your professor, expressing your gratitude and appreciation for their support and guidance during the process. Update them on your progress through the process of your applications and also inform them of the outcome. Engaging with your professor and writing a note of thanks can foster a positive relationship that may help you with your future endeavours.

Related: How To Ask for a Reference Letter (With Tips and Examples)

Sample for requesting a letter of recommendation

Here is a sample request for a letter of recommendation that may help you write one effectively to your professor:

Brian Lau
22C, Tower 1,
Concord Building,
North Point

15th April 2021

Dear Dr. Fung,

Thank you for taking the time to meet with me the other day to discuss my upcoming plans. Following our discussions, I am writing to submit a request for a letter of recommendation for my internship at Bridgewall Digital. Not only is this internship a prerequisite to graduating, but it also gives me the opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge that I have been learning so far.

Being my course instructor and mentor throughout my studies and guiding me through my dissertation, we have spent a considerable amount of time discussing various topics regarding my dissertation and major. Therefore, I believe that a letter of recommendation from you can accurately showcase my strengths, skills and passion.

To assist you with the letter, I have enclosed my resume and key details about the internship and the company. As Bridgewall's application deadline is 9th May 2021, I hope this provides sufficient time for you to write the letter.

Thank you very much for your guidance and support. Kindly let me know if you have any further questions or if there is additional information I can provide.

Brain Lau

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