Sample email asking for a letter of recommendation from a professor

Navigating the world of academic requests can be daunting, particularly when it comes to securing a strong letter of recommendation.

It’s crucial to approach this task with the right preparation and understanding.

In this blog post, we’ll:

  • break down the structure of a well-crafted email request for a recommendation letter,
  • provide sample sentence starters,
  • compelling subject line options,
  • and examples to guide you.

We will also share valuable tips to ensure your recommendation letter stands out, enhancing your scholarship or university application. 

So, whether you’re a seasoned academic or just embarking on your academic journey, read on to arm yourself with essential tools to secure that impactful letter of recommendation.

What to include in an email to a professor when asking for a recommendation letter

When you ask a professor via email for a letter of recommendation you must ensure that your request is obvious and not seen as too much of a burden for a busy academic. 

Make your request by following these sections. I have provided some sample sentence starters for you too – just to get you off in the right direction. 

SectionSentence Starters
Introduction1. “I trust this email finds you in good health…”
2. “I hope you are doing well…”
3. “Greetings, Professor…”
4. “Hello, Professor…”
5. “Dear Professor…”
Request1. “I’m reaching out to request…”
2. “Could you possibly assist me by…”
3. “I was hoping that you could…”
4. “I would greatly appreciate if you could…”
5. “Would it be possible for you to…”
Details1. “The letter should ideally highlight…”
2. “Key areas to focus on might include…”
3. “I believe these particular experiences would be relevant…”
4. “The recommendation should ideally touch on…”
5. “It would be beneficial if the letter could underscore…”
Additional Info1. “To aid in the process, I’ve attached…”
2. “I’ve included some materials to help you…”
3. “For your reference, I have attached…”
4. “I’m providing some additional documents which include…”
5. “In the attachments, you’ll find…”
Closure/Gratitude1. “I greatly appreciate your time and consideration…”
2. “Thank you for considering my request…”
3. “I am deeply grateful for your help…”
4. “Your support in this matter is greatly appreciated…”
5. “I sincerely thank you for your time and support…”

The importance of the subject line via email

If you don’t have a strong email subject line your email for a request to write a recommendation for graduate school could be completely ignored

Here are some strong options for you to choose from if you need inspiration:

  1. “Seeking Your Expertise for Scholarship Recommendation Letter”
  2. “[Your Name]’s Request for Your Valuable Recommendation”
  3. “Your Insight Needed for [Your Name]’s Scholarship Application”
  4. “Recommendation Request: Helping [Your Name] Achieve [Specific Goal]”
  5. Invitation to Contribute to [Your Name]’s Future Success with Your Recommendation”
  6. “[Your Name]’s Request for Your Invaluable Perspective in a Letter of Recommendation”
  7. “Your Assistance Required for [Your Name]’s Academic Journey: Letter of Recommendation”

Examples of emails asking for a letter of recommendation

Example 1

Dear Professor [Last Name],

I hope this message finds you well. I am currently preparing my application for [the program’s name] at [university’s name]. As part of the application process, I am required to submit a letter of recommendation and I was hoping you might consider writing this for me.

Throughout my time in your [specific course’s name], I have had the opportunity to gain a comprehensive understanding of [mention skills or topics learned], and your guidance and advice have been invaluable. I believe that the knowledge and skills I have received under your mentorship would be best attested by you.

The letter should cover my academic performance, class activities, and my ability to [mention the skills relevant to the program you are applying for]. I would be happy to meet and discuss these points in more detail, or provide you with any other information you may find useful when writing the letter.

The deadline for submission is [date], ideally from your professional email address to increase the credibility of the letter. Most universities now require the recommendation to be uploaded online, so I will include detailed instructions in a subsequent email.

Should you decide to agree to my request, I would be profoundly grateful. Your recommendation would significantly enhance my application and increase my chances of being admitted to my desired university. However, if you are not able to fulfill this request for any reason, I completely understand and appreciate your time.

Best regards,

[Your full name] [Your university and course name] [Your contact information]

Example 2

Dear Professor Smith,

I hope this message finds you well. My name is [Your Name], and I have had the privilege of being a student in your [specific class] during the [specific term].

I am writing to respectfully request your assistance. I am applying for the [Name of Scholarship] and would be honored if you would consider writing a letter of recommendation on my behalf. The deadline for the scholarship application, and subsequently the recommendation letter, is [Deadline Date].

The recommendation letter should focus on my academic achievements, particularly those related to [specific course or field]. If possible, kindly incorporate instances that exhibit my dedication and the hard work I put into [specific course or field].

To aid in your writing, I have attached my resume and a document highlighting key accomplishments and skills that I believe make me a strong candidate for the scholarship. Additionally, if it would be helpful, I would be glad to draft a preliminary version of the recommendation letter to provide a baseline for your final version.

Please feel free to let me know if you need any further information. I understand the time and effort it takes to write these letters and deeply appreciate your consideration.

Thank you very much for your time and assistance.

Sincerely, [Your Name] [Your Email] [Your Contact Number]

Top tips for getting the best letter of recommendation possible:

To ensure a compelling reference letter from your professor, approach them with a well-updated CV highlighting skills relevant to your PhD ambitions.

Ask them politely and provide them with concepts to focus on that synergize with the program you’re applying for. 

I use to like to draft a reference letter myself to ease their burden and make sure that they actually say the things I want them to say! This draft helps them with structure and relevancy but can be edited as they see fit.

Request for more reference letters than your program requires, providing a backup. Subsequently, ask them to send the letter from a professional email and provide their copy too. This helps in future applications and ensures transparency.

Afterwards, reciprocate their effort with a heartfelt ‘Thank You’ note, providing a personal touch and fostering a strong rapport.

Here are the top tips for getting a stellar recommendation:

1. Choosing the Right Recommender
Ensure you choose a person who knows you well, can tell real-life anecdotes and stories about you, and who has worked closely with you. Avoid reaching out to someone famous or someone who barely knows you.

2. Effective Communication with Your Recommender
Sit down with your recommender and discuss the points you want them to mention in the recommendation letter. This could include highlights of your academic performance, active social life, extracurricular activities, or volunteer experiences.

3. Using Corporate Email Addresses
Always ask your professor or boss to use a corporate email address. Using email addresses such as Gmail or Hotmail can ruin the credibility of the recommendation letter. The recommendation letter should come from an email that can be linked back to your university or company.

4. Structuring the Recommendation Letter
An ideal recommendation letter should start off with a formal greeting like ‘To whom it may concern’, followed by anecdotes and accomplishments related to the student. It should finish by formally recommending the student to the University.

5. Length of the Recommendation Letter
Ensure that the recommendation letter is within the word limit set by the university. Some universities allow only up to 250 words.

6. Including Anecdotes
Any compliment in the recommendation letter should be followed by an anecdote. These anecdotes serve to validate the qualities or achievements you’re asking the professor to highlight.

7. Ensuring a Strong Endorsement
The letter should conclude with a strong endorsement, essentially ‘selling’ the student to the university they’re applying to. You want your recommender to explicitly state their recommendation of you for the university you’re applying to.

Wrapping up – Your email request

As we wrap up this comprehensive guide on asking a professor for a letter of recommendation via email, we hope the tips, samples, and strategies shared have demystified the process.

As you craft your email request, remember to ensure clarity, politeness, and professionalism in your communication.

Approach someone who knows you well and can provide a credible, detailed account of your abilities, experiences, and personal attributes. 

Most importantly, provide all necessary information to your professor, giving them ample time to draft a strong, well-thought-out recommendation.

Your effort in this stage can make a significant difference in securing that coveted spot in your desired program or scholarship. Equipped with this guide, you’re now ready to confidently request and secure impactful letters of recommendation.

All the best in your academic journey!

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.