Graduation Countdown: Asking Your Professor for a Recommendation Letter
You’ve spent your whole college career trying to win the favor of your professors. You’ve worked hard, you’ve done the work, and now it’s time to cash in all your effort. It’s the time of year to ask for recommendation letters. Whether you’re a graduating senior looking for a job, or an underclassman looking for an internship, recommendation letters are crucial to your success. Your professor’s words of affirmation set you apart from all the other applications and make future employers want to hire you.
Many kinds of “next steps” after college require a letter of recommendation. Transcripts list a final grade in courses but these do not tell much of the story behind the student’s journey toward earning those grades. For many kinds of employment, the person doing the hiring may be more interested in that story than in the grades.
I suggest students give their professors sufficient time to write the recommendations. Requests for recommendations tend to bunch up at the end of the spring semester when professors are busy getting final grades done. Give the person writing your recommendation letter as much time as you have. Phrase your request politely, as in “I am applying for x. Would you be able to write me a recommendation letter?”
I tell students that earning good recommendation letters may be more important for their next steps after college than merely earning good grades. A lot of students at a lot of colleges around the country earn good grades. The details a recommender might offer—especially when the recommender has known a candidate in several context—can help a candidate stand out. This is one area of preparation in which ENC’s small size can turn into a huge asset. Faculty have the opportunity to get to know students well in multiple courses, and can, therefore, write recommendation letters that offer the kind of concrete details that matter.
I never accept the job of writing a recommendation letter unless I can write a strong letter of concrete support. If I do not know the student well enough or for long enough, or I have not seen qualities in the classroom that I can rave about, I will decline the request. A letter that avoids detail or offers lukewarm praise will not help the student.
– Dr. Krejci-Papa
Dr. Marianna Krejci-Papa is a Professor in ENC’s Language, Theartre, and Communication Arts Department. She has been instructing in higher education for over 20 years, bringing her skills to Eastern Nazarene College, Yale, Stanford, the University of Maryland, and the National University. She lives in Wollaston, MA with her three children. Her oldest is a member of the class of 2019 at ENC.
Psst…. Just 65 days till graduation!