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How to Ask for Letters of Recommendation

2020 is FINALLY coming to a close, and I’m hoping that the new year will bring new resolutions, changes, and opportunities. For a lot of college seniors, the beginning of the new year is jam-packed with graduate school or law school applications. Every aspect of a grad school app is tedious or expensive or both, but the part that gives me the most anxiety is asking for letters of recommendation. I always have to hype myself up to reach out to my professors, even if I have known them for years. But a great letter of recommendation can really make or break your application, so here’s everything you need to know about getting letters of rec.

One of the most important factors of getting a stand-out letter of recommendation is networking with your professors. Obviously, this needs to happen way before you’re getting ready to start your applications. The word “networking” is not as serious as it seems, it just means developing professional relationships. Networking with professors is fairly simple, you can be a really active participant in class, show up consistently to office hours, and develop a rapport over email. Then when the time comes to ask your professor for a letter, they will know you well and write you a much more detailed, personalized letter than a professor of a class you just got a good grade in.

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Another step to complete before reaching out to a professor is updating your resume. Even if you have a great relationship with your recommender, they probably don’t know every academic, career, and extracurricular achievement you’ve ever had. Providing your recommender with your most current resume will allow them to again, write a much more personalized letter of recommendation. They might even help you strengthen your resume, which is especially helpful since almost every graduate or law school application requires you to submit a resume.

[bf_image id="q9nz5y-9xgmu0-bl84wy"] The last and most difficult step to take is actually reaching out and asking your professor for a letter of rec. I get it, the possibility of rejection is super scary, but the reality is that most professors really want to help you and see you succeed, and are probably more than happy to write you a letter. Reach out to them via email, ask for their help writing you a letter, and provide them with any information you think is necessary. I would also recommend scheduling a Zoom call or something similar, just to avoid any miscommunications or back and forth over email.

[bf_image id="r66z8jfsx3c5bh4p449ckg3"] Deciding to continue school after getting your undergraduate degree is a huge life decision, and it requires you to ask for help every step along the way. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need, and definitely don’t feel like you’re coming across as annoying or burdensome. A good recommender will appreciate your tenacity, ambition, and persistence.

Isabella Guerrero

UC Riverside '21

A writer learning as I go.
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