Asking For Letters of Recommendation

At some point you will want to request a letter of recommendation from one of your Professors. Here are some tips that you should consider before you do so.

[source: the original idea was on a poster I saw at Tulsa Community College, Oklahoma, but I have added advice from others too]

  1. Compile all your materials (see below) before approaching anyone for a letter.
  2. Ask the Professor at least three weeks before you need the letter in person and follow up with an email confirming that they agreed to do it.
  3. Remind the Professor how they know you. Were you in one of their classes? Were you in a lab? Did you have some special connection to this Professor?
  4. If you were in their classes, tell them what grade you got. Don’t make them look it up (they will!)
  5. If you were particularly engaged by something in the class (e.g. an assignment, class presentation, or idea), tell them.
  6. Explain why you think this Professor would be a good candidate to write you a letter. e.g. you have a previous relationship, they are known in the field, etc.
  7. Explain why you want the position you are applying for and why you think you are qualified!
  8. If you did not hear that the Professor sent a letter, send a polite email reminder one week before the deadline.
  9. When you do hear that the letter has been sent, send a thank you email to the Professor for their time and effort.

Things to compile and either bring as hardcopies or email to the Professor. Note, I prefer an email with a (if possible) single PDF attachment.

  1. Summary of the position: What is the title, company, and what is the email or website that I will need to send the application to?
  2. “Brag sheet” with information about you. This should be separate from your resume and should list the things (e.g. as bulllets) that distinguish you from all the other students.
    • Start with our interactions: which classe(s) did you take from me and what grades did you get? (Remember that I can and will check that out. Don’t, as someone tried once, tell me that you got an A when you barely passed the class. That will make it to your letter!)
    • Tell me what excites you about the job and why?
    • Tell me what else is amazing about you that I can put in the letter
    • Explain what you think you want to do next in your career
  3. Summary of your information:
    • where are you in your school career (e.g. sophmore, just about to graduate, etc etc)
    • your contact information
  4. Resume. Send me your resume that you send to the job
  5. Transcripts
    • be sure to highlight a favorite or appropriate class that relates to the job
    • be sure to include your overall and major GPA (and SDSU GPA if you wish). It will save me looking it up!
  6. Other relevant information that can help me craft the awesome letter that will help you land the job.

Good luck!