How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation
Deciding who to ask
Think about the professors who know you best. Professors who know you outside of class as well as in class are better recommenders than those with whom you have had class, but no other interactions. Getting a good grade in a class does not mean that professor should necessarily be one of your recommenders. A good letter includes particular and specific information about you. If the professor does not know you well enough to write specifically about you, you should ask a different professor. Ask your faculty scholarship coach if you should seek letters from outside your chosen major and for advice about who those recommenders might be.
How to ask for the letter
It is essential that you give your letter writers as much time to complete their letters as possible. Many professors write multiple drafts of recommendation letters and this takes time. A month in advance of your deadline, approach a faculty member during his or her office hours. Ask the professor if she or he would be able and willing to write a strong letter of recommendation for you. This is difficult to do, but you must do it and you must do it face to face. Do not ask for a letter of recommendation via email or right before or after class. If the professor suggests that you ask another professor to write, accept this answer graciously and thank the professor for his or her time. If the professor says that she or he will write, offer your thanks and say that you will follow up by providing due dates, background information and a CV via email. Follow up with the following materials within the week:
- Information about the fellowship to which you are applying
- Names, addresses, and due dates for the letter of recommendation
- A copy of your CV or resume
- A copy of your personal statement, research proposal or other documents that you have prepared for your application
- A brief narrative outlining for the professor your strengths and reminding the professor of particular important details
- A copy of your grades at Pacific
Be sure that you clarify whether letters are to be sent directly to the scholarship office, returned to you, or sent to your scholarship coach at Pacific and whether the due date is a postmark date or a received by date.
Some scholarships require an online submission of recommendation letters. Be sure that you tell your faculty recommender if they will be asked to submit a letter online. You will have to provide names and contact information for your recommenders to the scholarship office before they will send out electronic requests and instructions for letters, so you will need to complete this part of the application as early as possible.
Two weeks before your letter is due, if you have not heard from the professor yet, stop by or send an email thanking the professor for having agreed to write on your behalf and asking if the professor requires any additional information from you.
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