How to ask for a letter of recommendation

By Kate Broderick, Global Strategic Communication ’13


Deadlines for applications are approaching! Whether you are applying for law school, graduate school (I personally highly recommend an MSc in Global Strategic Communication!), or a summer internship, chances are you will be confronted with the same daunting task—the letter of recommendation!

As I constantly stress in my blogs, you have to approach this decision strategically. Follow the following steps to secure the best recommendation possible:


Pay attention to the time frame

While the Department of Humanities and Communication has some of the friendliest and helpful professors in the world, be considerate! Your professor is not going to be pleased if you send them a frantic email that you need a recommendation by 10:00am tomorrow morning. You know these deadlines are approaching—ask them at least two weeks in advance.


Ask the right person

Ask a professor that knows you well—this may not be the class that you’re getting an ‘A’ in. If you find a class challenging and make the effort to visit the professor at every office hour, chances are you’ve built up a rapport. They can attest that you work hard in the face of challenges and can probably provide a more personalized letter than a class you may have never spoken up in. That being said—if you’re doing terrible in a class and don’t get along well with your professor, you probably shouldn’t ask him or her for a recommendation.


Provide the supporting materials

Your professors may not know everything there is to know about you—here’s where you can help them out by providing two things: a letter of intent and your resume. You letter of intent should be addressed to your professor and detail your future plans (“I am applying to X Grad School for a Master’s in XYZ”). This will allow your professor to tailor their letter to reflect you in the best light for the particular application. Your up-to-date resume will prove your professor with a crash course in everything there is to know about you.


Follow through

If the deadline is approaching, you might want to send a gentle nudge to your professor to make sure they haven’t inadvertently forgotten your letter. Be polite, not demanding! You might want to send them a short email along the lines of, “I’m currently putting the finishing touches on my application to X program to have it finished before the deadline on [DATE]. I was wondering if you needed any additional information to help you with the letter of recommendation?”


Applying for anything is about building a connection and a letter of recommendation does just that. A letter of recommendation can be the make-or-break it point of your application—follow these steps give yourself the best chance!

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