Letter of Recommendation Part 3:
How to Ask for A Letter of Recommendation
It’s that time of year: Time to ask a professor or employer for a letter of recommendation.
By now, you should already understand the general importance of a letter of recommendation and how to choose who to ask for your letter of recommendation, but now its time to finally ask for your letter of recommendation. (If you are still in the process of deciding who should write your letter of recommendation, we recommend reading Part 1 & Part 2 of our Letter of Recommendation series first.)
Today, we’ll cover in detail how to ask for your letter of recommendation, including when to ask for your letter of recommendation as well as letter of recommendation request templates.
How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation
When it comes to asking for a letter of recommendation, there are 2 important factors to keep in mind: When to ask for the letter of recommendation and how to initially ask.
When to Ask:
It’s always best to ask for a letter of recommendation early in advance. 8-12 weeks in advance is best, even earlier can be better.
Professors and employers alike are busy people, and will need time to write your letter of recommendation. Also, assuming they will write a well thought out recommendation, that by itself will take some time.
Sending the Initial Request
Email your professor or visit during office hours to ask if the professor is comfortable writing a letter of recommendation for you.
- A professor you did well in but had little contact
- A professor you had a well established relationship with
- You are more of a hermit and had very little contact.
(For those who still have time to build relationships with your professor do so. It is always much more likely to receive a letter of recommendation from a professor who knows you.)
Specific Requests Once Your Professor Says “Yes”
Once initial contact is made, it’s important to set up a meeting, about 30-45 minutes long, to go over many things in detail, as well as to refresh your professor’s memory of you. (Remember, professors are busy people who meet with many different people and students on a daily basis.)
When you meet with your professor, keep it mostly professional (obviously this will slightly vary based on the specific relationship you have with the professor.)
Bring in a typed outline of everything you’d like to go over (and any specific information your professor requests). Let your professor know what you plan do to with your law degree and your plans for your career. Let your professor know what he/she may have to answer about you, any stories you may like them to include, and how these will relate to your questions.
Also include a copy of your personal statement, resume, transcripts, and any specific information to include for each law school (some law schools request specific information in a recommendation). The idea is to bring in as much information that will make writing your letter of recommendation as simple as possible for your professor.
Lastly, hint that it would be beneficial for your recommenders to elaborate on certain points. For example, rather saying you’re a disciplined student, they could write “you are one of the most disciplined students ever taught!”
Things to Keep in Mind When Requesting a Letter of Recommendation
Keep in mind your professors are very busy and also do not owe a recommendation. If they tell you they are too busy or believe it would be better to request from someone else, thank them for their time and move on. It’s best not to be pushy for something like this.
Also be sure to ask early in advance to allow plenty of time for an initial meeting and for your professor to write your letter of recommendation. Even if you’re asking with enough time to send the letter of recommendation, your professor may be too busy grading exams. The earlier you ask, the better.
Law School Rankings