How to ask for the best recommendation from a prof

 

 

Slow down to speed up the process. 

This is one of those mentally demanding tasks. This takes patience and a growth mindset. 

___

If you ever wish to or are thinking about asking Prof. Gaunt (or any other instructor) to write a letter of recommendation (LOR), you must read the following carefully. 

 

Because I have many students, not every request gets a YES!  

These instructions provide the guidance needed to help me make the best decision.

An average (or worse) LOR can ruin your chances in a competitive process. So if a professor declines to write for you, view it as an opportunity to find out what is missing relative to your reputation or performance. Don't give up, get cracking! 

 

STAGE 1:

 

I have to see and approve your personal statement.
In short, if you sound underprepared or inadequate for graduate school (or a job application), then I look foolish writing for you.

 

  1. What I require below is what you should do for everyone. Trust me, the process can encourage us to write better letters for you.
     

  2. The notes below are written for undergraduate students applying to graduate school. However, they are appropriate regardless of level.
     

  3. I will be asking myself: Am I qualified to write on your behalf? So please adhere to the recommendations I make below.

For me to write for you, you must have:

(a) worked as a grading assistant or on one of my research projects

      and/or 


(b) taken 2 classes with me and received an A- or A in the course(s). 

Exception: this is your last semester in college and you have an B+ or better in your current standing. 

 

Requests should be made ideally 3-4 weeks in advance. 

 

Admission and selection committees do not look favorably if you get a letter from someone who really doesn’t know you that well.

 

 

IF YOU QUALIFY:
 

Attach a 1-2 page resume along with a personal statement (can be a draft).
Provide the materials as specified below in an email (see sample letter).

Be sure to include the deadline and URL for each institution or opportunity, as applicable. Make it easy for me to know where and when it needs to be submitted.

 

The email should include:
 

1. how, when, and in what capacity I first met you (e.g., thick description stories are welcome).

 

2. what class(es) you took with me and when.

 

3. the title and a description of your final paper/project and the final grade you received in the course(s).

 

4. if you worked on one of my research projects or as a grader indicate:

   1. (a) what project/course,

   2. (b) what semester and year your worked on it,

   3. (c) what you learned from the experience

 

5. share something unique about you as an ambitious student or in community service which would be appropriate for a selection committee to read

 

6. share your current overall GPA, your GPA in your major, as well as your most recent GRE scores or when you are scheduled to take them, if required.  If not required, mention that.

 

7. what graduate program/job are you applying for, what competencies do you bring from your undergraduate studies, and why are you interested and/or prepared for that program. What weaknesses do you have (i.e., GPA) and what ARE you doing (vs. what will you do) to change that?

 

8. your contact information so I can find you AND the submission details (type of deadline, due date, address or URL).

 

Each school you apply to will generally ask me to submit a letter online (there are exceptions). You'll have to include information about me for their forms:

 

My contact information is:

Professor Kyra Gaunt, Ph.D. (Avoid "Mrs." or "Ms."— Professor or Dr. is appropriate usage regarding all instructors)

Department of Music and Theatre

University at Albany, SUNY

1400 Washington Avenue, PAC 313

Albany, NY 12222

Office phone: (518) 442-1410

kgaunt@albany.edu

 

STAGE 2:

 

Confirm receipt by the institution...this is up to you!

 

About two weeks before the deadline for your letter(s), you should circle back to confirm things are ok with BOTH the letter writer AND each institution. Be an offer of help to ensure things are complete.

 

Note: Remind the letter writer that you are circling back to ensure they have everything they need and ask them to email you when they have submitted the recommendation.

 

If you don't hear back, no less than 3 business days before the deadline, circle back with a similar email. Use "Friendly reminder + due date" in the subject header.

 

Next, contact the institution and make sure they have received your letters/recommendations. If not, find out who hasn’t sent them and circle back with a gentle reminder with a note: “Is their anything preventing you from completing my request so I can replace your letter, if need be?” 

 

This is why it’s important to check a week ahead of the deadline.

 

Professors juggle many duties among writing scholarship, research, teaching often 80 or more students, and service locally and nationally. We may need gentle reminders. 🤪 This is a process of adulting, it’s demanding and requires coordinating several tasks. That’s why you start early! 

 

Best practice: 

 

  1. You ordinarily need 3 recommendations but always a backup LOR (letter of recommendation)!

  2. Always ask faculty, staff, a former/current employer or internship/volunteer coordinator -- anyone who has known you well for more than 6-12 months. 

  3. The best faculty to write for you are from courses in your declared major/minor. 

 

Don’t forget and this is critical: It’s your job to insure your materials get to their destination on time; no one else’s.

 

If you have any questions, let me know and good luck (smile).

 

 

Sample request letter:

 

Dear Prof. Gaunt:

 

Thank you for taking the time to write <graduate school, undergraduate, job, “program” admission, OR WHATEVER IT IS> recommendations for me. I greatly appreciate it and I will be sure to keep you updated on my progress.

 

To help jog your memory, I thought it would be helpful to include detailed information about me you may know:

 

1. I am a Puerto Rican woman and in the spring of 2014, I was enrolled in your Introduction to Cultural Anthropology class at Baruch College.

 

2. [See items #1 thru #6 above … and be sure to address them all.] I’ve provided all the information you need to respond to my request. Would appreciate knowing if you can help. 

 

3. I’m applying for the _X_ graduate program. I am interested in the intersection of race and gender as it applies specifically to Puerto Rican women. I hope to further delve into this topic in graduate school and then ultimately teach and be a researcher at the university level.

 

I realize how many letters you have to write for your students. Therefore, I would like to once again thank you for taking the time to write these recommendations. If I don't hear from you in a week, I will circle back with a followup request. Thanks and look forward to your response!

 

Sincerely,

 

________________________________ {your signature}}

Your Name

Your Address

Your City, State Zip

Your Phone Number

Your Email Address

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

 

  1. Dear College Student, If your professor has sent you a link to this page, two things are likely true... https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2015/04/16/advice-students-so-they-dont-sound-silly-emails-essay
     

  2. https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/best-cover-letter-examples
     

  3. https://careertrend.com/how-to-explain-a-low-gpa-in-a-cover-letter-13639979.html
     

  4. https://www.waiverletter.com/7-tricks-that-will-make-your-low-gpa-essay-outstanding/ 
     

  5. Resumes + Cover Letters from Stanford website (use only the best resources) https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/alumni/career-resources/job-search/resumes

 

Good luck!!

Prof Gaunt