How to Ask for Letters of Recommendation

Letters of Recommendation

For the next installment of my “How to Apply to SLP Graduate School” series, I’ve decided to talk about letters of recommendation (LOR). Obtaining the required number of LORs is a pretty stressful process. Each school requires a different number of letters and sometimes the person writing them must have a specific relationship to you (professor, supervisor, licensed SLP with CCC’s) which can make things a bit complicated. This post is filled with tips for you to ensure you have a smooth experience asking for LORs!

Start early.

My biggest piece of advice is to START EARLY. Be proactive! At Temple there are GPA and grade requirements you must meet in order to ask for LORs. We had to have a minimum GPA of 3.00, a B or better in the course(s) taught by the faculty members who are being asked to write the letters, and have no more than one grade of C in any course in the undergraduate major. Think about the professors you want to ask for letters as early as the start of your sophomore year. In your second year, you’ll begin taking more classes related to your major. Be sure to make a good impression on your professors when you can.

Some good tips I have for this are: get good grades (obviously), sit in the front of class, go to office hours (even if it’s just once or twice to ask a question… this is HUGE), ask a lot of questions and speak up in class, turn your assignments in on time.

Always ask and do it face-to-face.

Even if you think they’re going to say yes, it’s always always good to ask them as if you weren’t sure. NEVER assume a professor is writing you a letter. Another important factor is to do it face-to-face. Email the professor to set up a meeting or to be sure they’re around during their office hours and then stop in. Chances are, they know it’s application season and they know why you’re coming in. Don’t sweat it. When you get there, talk to them about how they were an integral part of your undergraduate process and you loved their class, working in their lab, etc. and you were wondering if they could write you a letter of recommendation for graduate school.

BEWARE: sometimes professors will say yes but will actually write a negative letter and send it. Yes, this has happened to people. Be sure to say, “will you be able to write me a positive letter of recommendation”. This kind of forces the professor to be up front about it!

At Temple, we had these “packets” that needed to be given to the professor before they could write the LOR. I’ll be honest, I asked four professors/supervisors for LORs and I only made ONE physical packet. Most of my professors wanted you to email them the requirements. Every school is different, I’m sure, but here’s what Temple’s department required:

  • Student resume
  • Personal statement
  • Complete transcript with all course grades and overall GPA
  • Stamped and addressed envelopes (with return address of faculty member) for printed recommendations
  • List of all schools to get recommendations from the faculty member(s) and their due dates

Everything is interconnected.

I know this sounds very deep and philosophical but it’s SO true when it comes to the grad school application process. The people writing your LORs are going to basically need a finished application from you. They wanted my personal statement and my resume. They want a list of schools you’ll be applying to. Some of this information was not finalized until November. DO NOT WAIT THAT LONG TO ASK FOR LETTERS. Get on that professor’s list ASAP. Even if you don’t have your personal statement or resume finished, still ask. Get to them as soon as it’s done. Most of my professors didn’t care if the personal statement was final, they just wanted a draft to see the gist of what I was writing about. But it is important to remember that when you’re applying everything is interdependent on each other. It’s all one big application after all!

Q: How do you ask for a LOR when you aren’t really close to any of your professors? I’ve never had a professor more than once!

I only had one professor twice. And I also was a preceptor (TA) for her. She was definitely writing one of my letters. As for the others, I had only had them once and I was EXTREMELY nervous to ask. The one professor I asked I had only had her that same semester. I was doing really well in her class and I was super interested in the material so I went to her office hours and asked her. Bottom line: it never ever hurts to ask. For those professors that don’t know you well or haven’t had you in class for a few semesters, they’ll probably bring up your grades. Be prepared for that. Back up your reasoning for asking them. I’m asking you for a letter because ______. Why are they a good fit to write you a letter? What do they know about you that maybe one of your other professors doesn’t know? Think of those things before you ask so you’re prepared!

Q: How far in advance did you ask for recommendation letters?

I sent out emails requesting to meet with professors in September of my senior year. I had friends who asked before leaving for the summer their junior year and then followed up with the professor as soon as the semester started. This is a good method if you really know who you want to write you a letter!

Q: Do your letters of rec have to be from professors?

NO. However, pay attention to each school’s requirements. Some schools might want each letter to be from someone who has had you in class so be prepared for that! My letters were from professors and an old supervisor/boss I had while working for Jumpstart.

Q: How did you determine who to ask?

I looked at professors who knew me outside of class, could speak about my work ethic and passion for the profession and my organizational skills. My supervisor could talk about how I interacted with children and their families in a classroom setting. I think all of those things are important factors about me and things I would want a program to know.

Q: I plan on having four letters of rec, if a particular school only needs 3, how do I choose which ones I want them to read?

There’s really no right answer for this. You could look at it like if a program has a strong focus on children, you’d send letters from a professor who had you in a language development class or, in my case, a supervisor from a program like Jumpstart. Or you could just pick the letters from the three people you feel know you best. Ultimately, it’s your call!

Check out more posts in the SLP grad school series:

GRE Tips, Frequently Asked Questions, and Resources

GRE Study Essentials

The Basics of Applying to Grad School

(all the components you’ll need to complete the process!)

Deciding Where to Apply to Grad School

If you ever have questions or want to see me write about a specific topic, leave a comment below!

  • Anyone applying to grad school needs to follow these steps to a T. I had a similar method and presented them in person with my request and documents to reference neatly in a folder. Unfortunately, I had one professor that failed to get in two of my recommendations on time (even after countless reminders) and it cost me admission to those schools due to an incomplete application. It was extremely disappointing because I’d had so many classes with that professor and she was one of my favorites!

    • That’s the worst! I’m sorry that happened to you. Luckily, my professors ended up being on top of things but I could always double check in the system if the letters weren’t submitted. If they weren’t I would have definitely been emailing a LOT to make sure they got them in!

  • Thanks for answering my question Kayla!! I’m not applying for grad school anytime soon, but I do need LOR to apply for study abroad soon! I peer mentored for a professor last fall so I will totally be asking her for one!

    • That sounds like an awesome idea! Hopefully these tips helped you!

  • mckenna bleu

    These are great great tips!!

  • thesophiadiaries

    These are great tips, and i couldn’t agree with them any more! Plus i think it’s also important to know that you can always ask the professor if they would be WILLING beforehand, rather than surprise them with the request :)

  • These are such great tips! I remember having to do this when I was applying to grad school, and I had to ask in the spring long before applications were even due. It was such a hassle getting everything all sorted out for everyone, and one professor even missed a deadline despite me reminding her about it several times! But thankfully it all worked out (obvs since I’m graduated now haha), and I had my resume’s and statements ready to hand out to everyone.

    • I was so paranoid one of my professors would drop the ball but, thankfully, that didn’t happen! Thanks Cameron!

  • Tori Dunlap

    Oh boy, applying for grad school is one thing I’m glad I’m not experiencing right now (and may not ever experience.) Props to you girl, and thanks for the great advice.

    Tori || Victori Media

    • Thanks Tori! It was definitely a unique and stressful process. So glad it’s over!

  • So many great tips for anyone who is looking to get letters of recommendation for grad schools! The earlier you request the letters of recommendation, the better :) You don’t want to give too little of notice!

    Kristen |

  • I’m definitely bookmarking this post for future reference. I was especially wondering how to ask for recommended from professors you’re aren’t really close to. Glad you answered it!

    Yvanne |

    • Thanks Yvanne! If you have any other questions along the way be sure to reach out! Good luck :)

  • Jordyn Upchurch

    I haven’t had to get letters of rec for grad school (yet!) but I have for potential job situations and it’s still pretty nerve-wracking. I’m in education so I had to ask my principals as well as my superintendent so it will a little scary, but thankfully they all knew me well and could vouch for the type of teacher I am!

    xoxo, SS

    Southern And Style

  • Laura Sowder

    I really hope you continue this series of posts! I stumbled upon your blog while scrolling through Pinterest, and I discovered that you’re studying to become an SLP as well. I will be working to apply for SLP grad school this fall, so it’ll be nice to get tips from someone who just went through this! Also I take my GRE in a month and I’m so nervous. Thank you for your insight on this stressful process, and good luck to you in grad school!

    • Thank you Laura! Good luck on the GRE! I know it’s the worst but try not to sweat it too much. If you have any suggestions or requests for a post you’d like to see, don’t hesitate to let me know!