That awkward moment when...
... you have to ask a professor or teacher for a letter of recommendation that makes you sound like the best candidate there is for college admission, graduate school, or an academic job.
No need to be in dismay because we’re here to help you make it not (as) awkward by providing you with tips and sample emails for when asking for a letter of recommendation.
Here are the main steps and tips to keep in mind when asking a faculty member for a letter of recommendation
- Choose a professor or teacher who knows you well
- Preferably ask one who teaches a subject related to what you’re applying for
- Ask early to give him/her/them plenty of time to write the letter
- Preferably ask them in person before emailing them
- Give them information on which school, major, department, or job you’re applying to
- Tell them about the career path you want to take to give them context
- Also, let them know about the deadline for submission
- Give a summary of your achievements in their course (good grades, presentations, projects, papers, etc.)
- Provide your resume or other helpful information that will aid them in writing the letter
- A cover letter is optional but can be helpful if you want to go into more detail
- Give a friendly reminder about the letter again when the deadline approaches
- If the instructor is to submit it themselves, confirm on the submission site if it arrived by the deadline
- Write a thank-you letter and also update them on whether you got into the school or not
Chose a professor or teacher who knows you well
When choosing the professor or teacher for your letter of recommendation, it’s best to choose one who knows you well and, if applicable, specializes in a subject that is related to the place you are applying to.
For example, if you are applying to be a physics major at MIT, you would probably want to ask one of your physics teachers for a recommendation letter, and if you are applying to the California Institute of the Arts, you would probably want to ask an art teacher.
What if you’re not close to any of your teachers or professors? In that case, you can choose a faculty member who taught a course that you excelled in academically. For example, if you got high scores on tests, projects, presentations, or papers in their course, you can include those achievements in your email body, cover letter, and resume when you contact them. This will help them recall who you are and provide them with material to base their letter of recommendation on.
There is always a possibility that the faculty member may turn down your request, and it may not be because they don’t like you in particular. They may just be too swamped with other work, so it’s always good to have a backup plan.
Note that all names, emails, and file names used below are not real.
Letter of Recommendation for College Application
Email subject line: Peters, Sloan - Letter of Recommendation Request
Dear Mr. Rooney,
Hope you’re having a great day. I am applying to Harvard University as an Applied Physics major and was wondering if you could write a letter of recommendation on my behalf. I’ve taken both your introductory physics and AP Physics class, and I also attended the summer excursion you hosted for the Physics and Robotics Exhibition in Mountain View.
I was actually inspired to delve deeper into physics because I grew to love the subject after taking your classes. To tell you the truth, I never thought of going into this field before. I enjoyed the critical thinking and hands-on experiments involved in your physics classes to the point where I came to want to pursue physics as a career.
I attached both my resume and cover letter to this email. I wanted to highlight that I scored well in both of the classes I took with you, and I remember you particularly liked my mini roller coaster project for demonstrating potential and kinetic energy.
Please let me know if you would be willing to support my candidacy for Harvard University. The due date for my application is February 2nd, and I will provide the website for submitting the letter and all other necessary information if you decided to endorse my application.
Thank you very much for all you have taught me throughout the years.
Sloan Peters, class of 20XX
Attached file names:
Letter of Recommendation for Graduate School
In this example, the student has already asked his professor in person regarding a letter of recommendation. Here, the student gives context and then provides helpful information regarding the deadline and about himself.
Email subject line: Request for Letter of Recommendation, Ferris
Dear Professor Stein,
Thank you for agreeing to write a letter of recommendation on my behalf for my application to the Stanford Graduate School of Business. This really means a lot to me.
I enjoyed the two classes I took with you over the course of this year, and I’m proud to say I haven’t missed a single class throughout the whole year. I learned a lot in your Game Theory and Advanced Microeconomics classes, and I would like to further pursue my studies in Economics and Business in graduate school.
I have attached my resume so you could get an idea of the economics-related internships I have done along with my academic achievements in economics courses in undergraduate. The due date for the letter of recommendation for the Stanford Graduate School of Business is November 30th.
Please let me know, and if you need any additional information, you can reach me via email or cell, firstname.lastname@example.org and (555) 555-5555 respectively.
Thank you again. I really appreciate it.
Attached file names:
Letter of Recommendation for an Academic Position
Email subject line: Request for letter of recommendation (Camryn Friar)
Dear Professor Wheelberg,
I am applying for a Laboratory Specialist position at Purdue University and wanted to ask if you would be comfortable vouching for me with a letter of recommendation for my job application.
I have studied and worked under you as both a student and part-time lab assistant for one and a half years now. I took three of the four courses you taught related to botany and genetic bioengineering of flora and fauna, and I got high scores in all three of those classes.
As a lab assistant, I assisted you in your most recent findings for the thesis you wrote for publication. I handled all cell culture tubes and was also in charge of filing the reports.
I provided my resume and I more detailed cover letter that would hopefully help with the process if you decide to write the letter of recommendation. The deadline for the submission of the letter of recommendation on Purdue University’s site portal is January 6th, and I will be more than happy to help you out with the technical aspects if needed.
Let me know what you decide.
Thanks so much,
Attached file names:
Feel free to change up the wording or phrasing of any of these sample emails to best suit your situation, and good luck with your application!
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