A great letter of recommendation might make the difference between getting into the college or employment of your dreams or not. It can give you an advantage over your competition.
With such high stakes, you may be wondering whether your professor may write a bad letter of recommendation. Maybe you may not have been an outstanding student, or the professor didn’t like you much. So, can your professor write a bad recommendation?
The truth is that no professor would write a negative letter of recommendation; instead, they might just opt not to write one or write something generic if they don’t know the student well.
Professors understand how important recommendation letters are, and would not sabotage their students or former students irrespective of their reservations. They may however choose to decline writing one for a student for various reasons.
So how can you make sure that your professor writes a non-generic or personalized letter of recommendation?
Tips For Getting Personalized Letter Of Recommendation
You need a letter of recommendation from your professor but you also want to make sure they write something personalized. After all, some or most of your competition may also be presenting recommendation letters.
Remind Them Who You Are
Professors may have taught hundreds, if not thousands of students in their careers. That said, there’re some students they would always remember. It’s advisable to ensure that the professor remembers who you are, especially in cases where you had a close relationship.
Ask In Person First
Before sending the professor the recommendation request, meet and speak with them first. Explain to them what you’re applying for and why you need the letter of recommendation.
Keep in mind that professors know more about letters of recommendation than you. They’re used to writing them and understand their relevance.
Simply explain to them why you need the recommendation and they may be able to provide some additional advice on your application. They’ve had students who work in various parts of the country and internationally.
The professor may be able to even connect you to someone who works in the office or school you’re applying to.
Additionally, it’s easier for the professor to remember who you are if they meet you in person. If they still don’t remember who you are, you should describe the course you did, and the year if necessary.
Ask The Right Professor
If you’re not sure the professor you’re thinking of may be able to remember you, choose another professor. Maybe you didn’t stand out in the professor’s class, and they wouldn’t be able to remember you.
Simply choose a professor who would remember you in their class. This is to ensure that they write a personalized recommendation instead of something generic from a professor who has no idea who you are.
If the professor is kind enough to suggest that you find another professor who may have known you better, thank them and follow their advice.
Refusal to accept their advice could lead to a generic recommendation which could do you more harm than good. If you sense hesitation, you should ask someone else. Keep in mind that professors may have their reasons for double-thinking writing recommendations for any particular student or past student.
Send Formal Letter Of Recommendation Request
After meeting with the professor and describing the reason why you need the recommendation, it’s advisable to send them a formal request for a letter of recommendation.
Teachers get swamped with such recommendation requests especially when college deadlines are approaching. Asking them early would give them ample time to spend on your request to provide a personalized recommendation.
Provide the professor with adequate information about the role or school you’re looking to enter. This will enable them to tailor the recommendation to the specific audience. Meet in person with the professor and present information on:
- Description of the role or school you’re applying to
- Application forms and materials
- A pre-addressed envelope with proper postage
Say Thank You
The professor can easily refuse to write you a recommendation but they’re taking time out of their busy schedules to get it done for you. Send the professor an email or handwritten note to express your appreciation for their assistance.
Keep Them Updated
Be sure to keep the professor updated when you receive the good news on your application. Should you refuse to update them, it’ll be difficult to ask them again for a recommendation in the future.
Mistakes To Avoid When Requesting A Letter Of Recommendation
Now that we’ve taken a look at the helpful tips, let’s take a look at things to avoid when requesting a letter of recommendation from a professor.
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Don’t Assume An “Okay”
Professors have busy schedules and may be occupied with other activities that may make it difficult for them to write you a recommendation. Additionally, the professor may not remember the student or have enough information about you to write a strong recommendation.
Even in cases where they may have written one for you in the past, it’s advisable to inform them first before including them in your reference on an application.
Even in situations where a letter of recommendation may not be required, it is essential to first obtain the professor’s consent before naming them as a reference to make sure they will be able to supply one.
Don’t Just Send Requests/Drop Off Forms
It’s advisable to meet with the professor to discuss your qualifications, the requirements of the role or course, and any deadlines. Simply dropping off forms at the professor’s office or sending them an email may not lead to personalized emails.
Keep in mind that professors have taught hundreds of students and would not easily remember you from your name on the documents alone.
An in-person meeting would increase the chances of the professor remembering you, and enable them to go through your documents and provide advice where necessary to increase your chances of landing the role or getting admitted into the school.
If a professor declines to write you a letter of recommendation, do not assume they dislike you or believe you were a bad student. They may simply lack adequate information about you to write a strong recommendation for the role or school you’re applying to.
In that case, it’s advisable to find a professor who may be a better fit as they may have enough experience with you to provide you with a strong recommendation.
Don’t Pester Professors
Don’t turn up in every corner they pass to ask about whether they’ve sent the letter or not. You can send a follow-up but refrain from spamming them. Give them adequate time to review your documents and write a strong recommendation.
If you become annoying, a professor may simply write you a generic recommendation that would do more harm than good in the long run.