#StudiousSeptember: Letter of Recommendation Stress

26 Sep

There will come a time in your life where you will have to ask someone for a recommendation, whether it be a boss, or a professor, it will still be one of the most intimidating things you will do. This is because they literally can make or break your endeavor. A good recommendation will go far with a potential employer or graduate school, but a bad one could be the reason you are not accepted.

So the real question is how can you make sure you get a good recommendation? The truth is, you can never really be sure. Most professors will not tell you what they write on your behalf, so you are never REALLY sure what they have said about you, but that does not mean that you can’t lay the ground work for a good recommendation. Here are 5 tips that I have used to get a good recommendation letter.

  1. Actually talk to your professor
    • This might seem like an obvious tip, but many students are intimidated by their professors. If you can’t make it to office hours, try staying after class or emailing them. If a professor knows your name, that is a good sign!
  2. Try working with them outside of sitting in their lectures
    • Try taking on independent studies with them, or preceptor one of their classes. This will give them something other than the one class you have had with them to talk about in the recommendation. It will also show them that you are a well-rounded student.
  3. Always be professional and polite
    • This is extremely important, especially in today’s culture when people are very casual in addressing professionals. They have earned their degrees and should be given the respect of that title. While some professors do not insist you call them by their last name, you always should. Also, making sure that your emails are formatted in a professional way will carry far with professors.
  4. Make sure you tell them what your goals are
    • How are they supposed to recommend you for something when they don’t know what it is? Make sure to have a conversation with them about your goals and what you hope to get out of this experience. This will help them format their recommendation.
  5. Let them know what you do besides study
    • It should be very clear to them already that you are a hardworking student, but letting them know what you do outside of class can help them get a better understanding for who you are.

It is very important that you start building these relationships in your first year because a professor who has known you for four years will be able to write a better recommendation than one who has known you for maybe a semester. I have recently asked three of my professors to write recommendations for me, and they have all let me know that they would be delighted, so start as soon as you can!

– Chrissy

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