There are several reasons why a student may need a letter of recommendation from a professor. The student may be applying for a scholarship, a new job or for admission to graduate school. If the student already knows the professor, speaking in person gives the professor a more personal reason to give a good recommendation and allows him or her to include details that show the committee that the student made a good impression on the professor. An email request need not contain all the pertinent information. The student may attach a CV to the email if they think it will help or they can request a meeting.
If the class was so large that the professor may not remember the student, then an email may be a better option because it gives the professor the chance to think about it. If the professor has serious doubts about giving a strong recommendation, he or she can simply reply by email that it would be better to find a different professor. A student needs a strong recommendation letter. An insipid, vague or generic letter may be worse than no letter from that particular professor.
The way to get the best possible recommendation letter is for the student to start a year in advance by taking a particular professor’s class, getting to know the professor and getting an A in the class. However, it is still possible to get a good letter if the student follows a few rules. The first rule is for the student not to be shy. It is not an imposition to ask a professor for a recommendation letter, and most professors expect to be asked by a few students.
The professor will need a complete list of instructions that includes the following information:
• The nature of the position for which the student requires the recommendation
• The application due date – the request should be made to the professor at least three to six weeks prior to any due date and further in advance is better
• How the professor should deliver the letter – should it be given directly to the student or mailed to an admission committee or employer
• To whom the letter should be addressed – is it addressed to an individual or a committee
• The reasons the student is applying for the scholarship, job or admission
• A curriculum vitae or resume
• A copy of the student’s transcript
There are some generally accepted rules that student would be wise to follow when they want to request a letter of recommendation by email.
• The email should be short – many professors have a full inbox and try to get through it as quickly as possible while not missing something important. The request email should be to the point and not give too many unnecessary details that may be in the CV or could be given at a personal meeting.
• If the professor has taught the student, then the student should try to refresh the professor’s memory. If this is not possible, the next best thing is for the student to show interest in the professor’s field.
• The request should be clearly stated and specific. For example, it should ask for a strong letter. This does not mean the student can be demanding, but there is a difference between being cocky and being assertive.
• The student should not take it for granted that the professor will help. The email is a request that should be politely stated. A little humility goes a long way.
• If the student does not hear back in a timely manner, it is all right to send a reminder. This is another reason the student should ask well enough in advance of any due date.
Here are a few things the student should avoid if he or she hopes to get a strong letter:
• Asking a professor whom the student hasn’t seen in over five years
• Asking for a recommendation letter that is due in two or three days
• Asking the professor to sign a letter written by the student
Here is a sample of an email requesting a professor to give a letter of recommendation for a character reference of a student to a potential employer. If the request is accepted, the student will then need to supply the information listed above.
Sample eMail Requesting a Letter of Recommendation
Subject: Letter of Recommendation
My name is NAME and I would like to ask you to write a strong character recommendation letter for me to accompany a job application. I took two of the classes you taught, Art Education and Art History, last year and made an A grade in both. You inspired me through your interpretation and understanding of fine arts to help improve the lives of children who do not have access to galleries and museums.
I am applying for the job of Roaming Art Teacher for the County of COUNTY. I will not only teach art through several mediums, but will take the children on field trips to get a first-hand appreciation of fine art.
You may not remember me, but I was the student who brought seven seniors from Name of School to listen to your interesting and entertaining talk on animation in February last year. The way you connect art to healthy living is an inspiration to me, and I hope to make it my life’s work.
Thank you for taking the time to consider my request. I would be happy to meet you to discuss the letter further if you would like. Applications are due in the county office on or before DATE. I can be reached at Phone Number or you can reply to this email.
Name of Person Requesting
By Andre Bradley