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Securing a Letter of Recommendation

DormEssentials March 1, 2018
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Okay, so, college professors can be intimidating. They are brilliant, and you are just one face among the hundreds in the lecture hall listening to them speak. Yet you are expected to have them write a letter about you? About how you are qualified academically and beyond? Here is advice on how to establish the personal recommendations that go into obtaining a solid letter of recommendation from your university professor. These letter of recommendations are commonly used when applying to grad school, applying for scholarships, or even in some cases, applying to a job.

First, take interest in the course! Read before class and think about the material. Realize that your professor has dedicated their careers to this field. Even in a lecture hall of hundreds, being passionate about the subject is recognized and resonates readily with a professor. They would love to see you as someone they identify with, as a young version of themselves. Establish this connection as a critical component to encourage your professor to recognize you and take you under their wing. If you do this well, they will take pleasure in writing you a letter.

Second, attend lecture and office hours. This is really an extension of the first point—show your interest in the course. Sit in the first few rows and ask thoughtful questions. Encourage your professor by showing her or him that you are listening. Make use of office hours to have a more intimate connection without the hundreds of other students. Know that, for them, most of these kids are in the class because it is a requirement. They just want to get the grade, either just passing or high enough to keep their GPA competitive for post-graduate programs. But taking interest in the material at a basic level is unique. You will be remembered, and, perhaps even more importantly, you will enjoy and learn more from the course.

Third, look into your Professor’s background. What kind of research do they do? Read about it if you have time or it looks interesting. Ask them about it. Not in a suck-up way, but if you are actually interested. Obviously, this is counter-productive if it is insincere. And perhaps don’t do it when a group of students are present and in fret over the exam next week. But find your in, and, even if you don’t understand much of it, your professor would love to tell you about her or his work if you are interested.

Finally, try to spend time with them outside of lecture or office hours. Are they serving as an advisor for an academic organization? Learn about what they do outside of academics. Be personable, but professional. It is a dynamic balance, but it is also counter-productive to treat them like your buddy then ask them to attest to your qualification for a professional program or position. Still, consider grabbing a group of students and inviting her or him out to coffee. Show your appreciation for her or his effort in teaching you. Professors are people. If anything, they appreciate dimensions of you as a young scholar aside from the academics. Bring your interests in the subject of your course, but also your personality. Everyone admires people who can effectively integrate both.

In sum, connect with your professor. Appreciate them as the established and renowned scholars that they are, and spend time absorbing their knowledge and wisdom. It helps to be a top student and ace their course, but it really is not necessary if you are memorable and personable beyond academics. Take interest in the person you are asking to evaluate you, and give them the opportunity to see you in your many dimensions. If you have the time to develop this relationship over years, asking for a letter will be implied and the Professor should have no trouble dictating their opinions. If you don’t have this time, rely on the strength of your academic performance and your interest as reflected by your attendance and questions in class and office hours. If you’re not sure how to improve on the academic end, ensure to check our tips on studying and getting a high GPA. It is not difficult to stand out and to make personal connections if you put forth the effort, and it will distinguish you when it comes time for letter writing. And as with applying to internships or jobs, making yourself stand out as a unique individual will help you far beyond the classroom.

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