As fall comes around, so does the admissions process for many upper graduate and doctoral programs. Often times, judging from personal experience, asking for letters of recommendation is one of the scariest facets of the whole process. It's hard to know who to ask and how to ask. But, don't vilify your professors, because, news flash, they want to see you succeed! During your educational career, you've probably had so many amazing professors who have inspired you, so by asking them they will feel extremely honored to be able to guide you during this process. So, here are my four best tips when asking for letters of recommendation. Trust me, it's not that scary!
1. Introduce yourself.
It's okay if you weren't your professor's star pupil in their three hundred student class. Also, it's pretty likely that if you attended a large university, your professor will not remember you amongst their masses of students. So, when asking for a letter of recommendation, whether through email or in person, always introduce yourself. Remind your professor what classes you took with them, the grades you received, and your future goals and ambitions. It's important to develop a friendly relationship with your professor, so when they are writing their letter they have a better understanding of who you are and what you achieved academically. Also, I find it beneficial to mention any academic awards you may have received, in fact, sending your professor your resume will allow them to incorporate more personal details into your letter.
2. Tell them how they inspired you.
This is super important! Not only for yourself, but also for your professor, it's important to know why you're asking that specific professor. Did your Spanish professor influence your love for the culture and now you want to pursue a master's in Spanish architecture? Try to connect the material you learned in their class to your future goals. This will allow your professor to write about your presence in their class, and it will shine a light on your student experience. This section will be particularly important if you're applying to a further education program.
3. Explain exactly what you need written.
Don't expect your professor to know what the program you're applying to is looking for. Professors shouldn't hold all of the fault and responsibility for your admissions decision. Do some research and tell your professor to mention specific talking points in order to garner the attention of the admissions team. Some programs prefer students who are independent and good communicators, so ask your professor to mention how you excel in both of these. Or, if you're applying for a scholarship that is based on volunteer work, ask your professor to talk about how you volunteered at your local animal shelter.
4. Thank them endlessly.
As mentioned previously, letters of recommendation are extremely important for upper-level education admissions. After standardized test scores and GPAs are analyzed, letters of recommendation are subsequently looked at. Please, take the time to thank these professors during the process and after the admissions decision has been released. Keep them updated on your educational journey and let them know the positive effect their letter had on your life. I strongly encourage you to write them a thank-you letter once they send you their letter because, after all, they could've very well said no to writing you a letter.
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