Asking For A Reference Letter From Your College Professor

When you should ask

Ask a Professor with whom you have worked closely for a reference letter. Ideally you should have done well in a few classes with the Professor, and you should have had contact with the Professor during office hours, for an extended project, and/or in consultation regarding your desired career path. If you are not sure whether you should ask a Professor for a reference letter, go ahead and ask your Professor their opinion about it. Sometimes a Professor might say no, but they can still give you a good idea about another Professor you should ask. Again, think about which Professors you worked closely with, who know you well, and who have seen some of your best academic work -- those are the Professors you should ask for reference letters.

Providing the materials

If a Professor agrees to write a reference letter for you, they will need some information first. For each individual program or job to which you are applying, provide your Professor with:
  • a link to the program or job description.
  • the deadline for the reference letter.
  • the submission details for how the reference letter will be submitted.
  • a brief narrative about why you are applying.
Most reference letters these days are submitted through online application processes. You enter the Professor's name into your References list, and the online system will send an upload request to the Professor's email. Occasionally letters are requested to be sent via email to a particular manager person or academic head, in that case you would provide the verifiable email address to your Professor where they can send their letter.

Additional materials to provide to your Professor include:
  • a list of all the classes you have taken with the Professor, in which semesters
  • your latest resume or CV.
  • information about your skills and experiences outside of just the class(es) where the Professor knows you.
  • information about your desired career path and why you have chosen that route.
Some of these elements can also be discussed in person too!