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How and when is it appropriate to ask a professor to be a reference for you?


When I asked for my reference's I was proactive on who I asked. I would recommend asking a professor with whom you have a more personal relationship with. Someone who knows you more as a person rather than just a student. And I believe there's no real wrong time to ask them. All your professor's especially the ones teaching your classes more specifically designed for your major want to help you and want you to succeed. Tyler DeWitt

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George’s Answer

Choose a professor that is familiar with your academic work and performance. That way the professor can speak about the knowledge and skills you have demonstrated that will help you succeed in the industry you are targeting.

George recommends the following next steps:

Notify them in advance.
Ask nicely.
Make sure to thank them
Follow Up

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Angela D.’s Answer

Great question! As a teacher and professor, I may have a bit of a different take on this. I've been asked to be a reference for my students constantly, at the high school, undergraduate, and graduate level. Yes, as others have mentioned, we are busy. But not too busy to help scaffold further success for our students! Please meet with us and discuss your goals. We have different levels of interactions with our students, so it’s helpful for you to give us a summary. Please provide us with your GPA, and grades in the specific courses you’ve taken with us. Remind us of your achievements, meetings/office hour attendance/etc. How do you stand out from your peers? We can’t write you an authentic recommendation if we don’t know the real you. Just from my own ethical perspective, I will not commit to writing a letter of recommendation if I cannot speak from a genuine voice. A generic letter is just that, frankly. Wishing you the best in your endeavors, Dr. B
P.S. Honestly, I can know in one semester if a student is worthy of a letter of recommendation, especially if I can see a track record of previous success....

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Rick’s Answer

The best way is to initially establish a good working relationship with the professor making her familiar with your work. It goes without saying that picking a professor who is an expert in a profession that you would like to enter is critical. I would ask for a reference long before an opportunity to intern or near graduation. That said, you could ask anytime once a good working relationship has been established. . The key is to make yourself known to the professor, establish a relationship, discuss your goals, talk about your experience and interest as well as demonstrate a good work ethic, It is always good to meet face to face and be enthusiastic and interested in the professors work.. After talking about your self, ask her how she established herself. In general, people like to talk about themselves and you could get some great advice that aligns with your goals. I hope this is helpful and good luck.

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Rick’s Answer

The best way is to initially establish a good working relationship with the professor making her familiar with your work. It goes without saying that picking a professor who is an expert in a profession that you would like to enter is critical. I would ask for a reference long before an opportunity to intern or near graduation. That said, you could ask anytime once a good working relationship has been established. . The key is to make yourself known to the professor, establish a relationship, discuss your goals, talk about your experience and interest as well as demonstrate a good work ethic, It is always good to meet face to face and be enthusiastic and interested in the professors work.. After talking about your self, ask her how she established herself. In general, people like to talk about themselves and you could get some great advice that aligns with your goals. I hope this is helpful and good luck.

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Will’s Answer

Hi Cassandra,

I'd say it's appropriate to ask a professor for a LoR once you feel as if you've formed close enough of a relationship with them to the point where they can testify to you work ethic, your willingness to learn, and how well you work with others. The more time you spend learning the material for a class and asking questions/consulting with the professor, the quicker this will occur. Ideally, you'll ask for a LoR from a professor who teaches a class you're most interested in; but, it's more important to ask a professor that you've formed the most helpful relationship with.

Once you've decided which professor would write you the most complete letter for you, you can ask them in-person (this is the preferred method) or over email if it's time sensitive and/or you have trouble coordinating schedules with them. If they agree to write a letter on your behalf, make sure to send a thank you note afterwards.

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Blake’s Answer

Hey Cassandra,

I would recommend using a professor that you have had multiple interactions with in the class/classes you have taken with them. If they aren't familiar with you, then they might still say yes, but chances are their reference will be pretty vague.

Thanks,
Blake

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Jemima A.’s Answer


How?
You have to choose a professor in similar career path or aspect as yours. Cultivate an open relationship with him/her. Be free and bold to consult him or her when confused in academic areas or other wise. Maintain a strong network with the professor you have chosen, try to be part of his/her research and even join in attending academic conferences.
Then after the 'when?' I shall answer below, be ready to place your request either in WRITING or VERBALLY.

When?
Is it time to place a request after you have kept a strong relationship with the professor, when you are sure he/she now has trust and confidence in you.

With these, the professor can accept to be your referee and will be ready to vouch for you.

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Herman’s Answer

Hi Cassandra!

I've had to do this for award applications in the past. To add to the other answers:

With respect to *when*, you first and foremost want to ensure that you give recommenders ample time to actually write their references / letters. Professors are busy people and they will view the situation unfavourably if the deadline is approaching.

Moreover, you'll want to choose a professor with whom you have some history. The easiest route is to select a professor of a class that you did well in. However, even these recommendations will be relatively weak if the only thing they can say about you is that you got a good mark in their class. The best case is where a professor is more familiar with your work and character. This could come from professors with whom you have research, volunteering, or work-study experience with. If you don't have that, then the next best thing is probably a case where it was a class where you went to office hours and built some rapport with professors.

I'll say that it's usually the case for students that they have little rapport with most professors. This is why, to lower year students, I encourage you to cultivate rapport with some of your professors. Recommendation letters are relevant for grad school admissions and awards, so many people will need them down the line!

One last thing I'll add is that when you reach out to a professor to be a potential recommender, offer to meet with them in person to talk about the situation. This is especially useful in cases where the professor doesn't know you well. In this meeting, you can explain your motivation for applying to X, explain why you have the qualities that X is looking for, walk them through your resume, etc. This gives professors some content to actually write about in their letters! Otherwise, it will be extremely generic and they'll be forced to just use a template that they likely have saved on their computers.

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Erika’s Answer

Hi Cassandra,

I would suggest developing relationships with professors before you ask. Get to know them by going to office hours for help in class, or ask them for career advice if they are in your major. If it is someone outside of your major, making a good impression during class by participating and asking important questions will help you stand out! I personally always say "Have a nice day" as I walk out of the classroom to my professors, and they notice because not many students do so.

Once you create a relationship and they can attest to your behavior/goals, they would be great to ask for a reference!

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Mila Rose’s Answer

Hi Cassandra,

It is okay to ask for a professor to be your reference, but you may choose those who you are familiar more with. you may ask him ask in a nice way or make a formal request, you may tell her/him the purpose why you want him/her to be you reference, don't feel nervous and just be yourself. It is also important that you show your sincerity. <3

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Yasemin’s Answer

Hi Cassandra! When asking for a reference it's definitely normal to be nervous, I remember being nervous asking my Organic Chemistry (OC) professor for a recommendation letter especially since I was struggling a bit in his class. It's very important though that you build a good relationship with your professor. You should attend office hours, speak with them about your goals, and make sure they get to know you. My OC professor got to know me through two semesters of OC almost a full year before I asked him for a letter. However if you take only one semester with a professor that's fine too, the main thing is that professors want to see you are hard working and committed to doing well in their class. It can be scary going into office hours or getting a professor to know you better but professors really care about students who put in effort even though it may be difficult. Also make sure to ask a professor that taught a subject you care about and that may be required for the program/school you are applying too. If you are pursuing let's say medical school, schools want to see two science and one non-science letter from professors who taught that class.

When should you ask for a letter? Definitely give them time, let's say you are applying to a program in June you should let them know that you may need a letter or reference and get their approval maybe in February or March and let them know when you would need the reference/letter. You can then causally remind them and send them any forms that may go with the letter. Definitely give them about 4 to 6 weeks to write a letter because professors can be very busy both with school, research and their own personal life!

Best of luck!!

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Mila Rose’s Answer

Hi Cassandra,

It is okay to ask for a professor to be your reference, but you may choose those who you are familiar more with. you may ask him ask in a nice way or make a formal request, you may tell her/him the purpose why you want him/her to be you reference, don't feel nervous and just be yourself. It is also important that you show your sincerity. <3

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Riley’s Answer

The first step in this process is choosing a professor to ask. As with any type of reference, you want this person to have a good idea of who are you personally as well as professionally. Therefore, it would be most ideal to ask a professor who you have taken several courses with or who you have spent a lot of time working on projects outside of class with, as these people will have more of an understanding of you overall. As for how and when to ask the professor, you could do it in an email but I think that asking in person would be more personal. You could either go to this professor's office hours or just stay after class one day to ask! Furthermore, definitely ask them if this is okay BEFORE listing them as a reference, as it ould be pretty awkward if they were contacted before knowing that you even listed them.

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