Endorsed By A Professor: College Recommendation Letters

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You’ve probably had to request teachers for recommendation letters in high school as part of the college application process, but you will always need good references to rely on. Recommendation letters from college professors might be needed for job, scholarship, graduate school, or even transfer applications. A strong reference from a respected professor can boost your application by tenfold. However, it can be harder to ask for letters from professors compared to high school teachers, so the following post will help you navigate the process! 

How to Choose Who to Ask for References

Similar to high school applications, it’s important to ask for letters from professors who know you well and can vouch for either your academic performance, your character, or both. It’s important to build relationships with professors early on: 

  • Visit professors’ office hours to get to know them – you can ask for help on assignments, or just ask them about their careers, interests, and if they have any advice for you  
  • Most professors are happy to help guide students and this will show you as a student who takes initiative 
  • Recommendations can also come from professors whose labs or programs you participate in  
  • You can also ask established junior lecturers, research assistants, or graduate students, although it’s better that the person you ask has a strong reputation  
  • Do norequest letters from professors whose classes you did not properly attend, or who have never met or even seen you before the request  it’ll be difficult to ask and it’s unlikely the professor can provide a good reference 

Asking for References

It’s important to be methodical in the process of requesting recommendation letters. Most professors won’t know every detail about you, so you need to do your best to facilitate the process. The more information you provide for your recommenders, the better of a reference they can provide for you in return! 

  • Ask early! Submit your requests to your desired professor(s) with plenty of time before the deadline so they aren’t in a rush  
    • Asking in person initially is recommended, followed up with an email request  
      • In your email, include all pertinent details such as your full name, class and section, and any other attachments, and make sure your email is polite, formal, and free of errors  
  • Begin your request by discussing your experience with the professor, and make sure to ask if the professor is comfortable writing a letter speaking of your abilities – sometimes, even if a professor knows you well, they may not be willing to formally vouch for you in applications 
  • Include your resume and cover letter, and if you can, provide a separate document detailing the activities on your resume, so that the recommender has extra information  
  • Provide any transcripts, experiences, and other general information that would help a professor understand you better as a student  
  • Clarify the purpose of your letter! It’s important to explain what type of application the letter is for and any restrictions or guidelines 
    • Purposes for your letter can range from listing the professor as a general reference, writing to cater to an admissions counselor (for graduate school applications), or referencing your abilities for a job application 

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