Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: How to ask recommendation letters in US ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: How to ask recommendation letters in US
Category: Reference, Education and News > Education
Asked by: oliversu-ga
List Price: $4.50
Posted: 25 Sep 2002 02:47 PDT
Expires: 25 Oct 2002 02:47 PDT
Question ID: 68814
  I am a foreign student from taiwan. 
I obtained my M.S. degree at the U.S. and
would like to apply for a Ph.D degree. Due
to the different culture of the two countries,
I don't know how to ask my professors to write
recommendation letters for me. I preferred sending
them e-mails first, asking if they are willing to
do so. I'd appreciate sample letters of this kind of
email or information of how to write them politely. 


Subject: Re: How to ask recommendation letters in US
Answered By: rico-ga on 25 Sep 2002 05:37 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi Ao-Jan and congratulations on your decision to work towards a PhD.

In general, the best letters of recommendation should be from
professors who:

- Have worked with you closely (e.g., a research supervisor)
- Have known you long enough to write with authority (e.g., academic
- Have relevant expertise 
- Are senior and well known (e.g., a departmental chair)
- Have a positive opinion of you and your abilities

The last is particularly important. A mildly positive letter from
someone who doesn't really know you can actually do you more harm than
good. Since you are applying to a PhD program, make sure that at least
two out of the three recommendations come from people within your
field (or from a field that is closely related to the one you are
about to enter.

I understand that you'd like to begin with an initial email to your
professors. My suggestion would be to use the email to 1) Make sure
the individual feels they know you well enough to write a meaninful
letter. 2) Make an appointment (three to four weeks minimum from the
time you'll need the letter) to speak with them in person and to
provide a file with your background information. It's to your
advantage to talk to the the person face-to-face; not only does this
allow you to clarify any doubts about the request, it automatically
conveys to the recommendation writer just how important this letter is
to you.

Here is the type of background information you should bring to your
recommendation writers:

- Your overall GPA 
- a list of courses you have taken, and grades earned 
- Your minor if you have one 
- The titles and abstracts of any research papers you have written 
- Honor societies to which you belong 
- Awards that you have won 
- Activities in which you have participated (and any offices held) 
- A description of your goals 

With this information, you can help your writers make their best
possible case for you.

As to the initial email itself, I've provided an example below, but
suggest that you simply use it as a guideline for your own
personalized request:

Dear <>:

I'd like to request your help in support of my Ph.D. application
through a letter of recommendation. To that end, if you feel
comfortable writing such a letter, I'd like to schedule an appointment
with you at your earliest convenience to discuss my courses and
activities during my graduate studies here, as well as my future
plans. To help you comment on my activities and academics, I'll bring
a file of material detailing my background information to our meeting.
I also plan on asking <names of other professors> for letters of

The letter will be due <at least 4 weeks in the future>, so I would
like to schedule our meeting soon to allow you adequate time. I very
much appreciate your support and look forward to speaking with you



Hope that helps.  Best of luck!



Search strategy and additional links:

sample request +for recommendation 


Request for Answer Clarification by oliversu-ga on 25 Sep 2002 22:12 PDT
Hi rico,
  Thanks for your answer.
Since I graduated. I went back to my 
country to work. Therefore, it's not
possible for me to meet my professors
in person. Your suggestions are very
fine. I just want to know if there's
anything I have to mention if I can't
talk to them face to face?


Clarification of Answer by rico-ga on 26 Sep 2002 04:50 PDT
Hi AJ,

Yes, it's certainly understandable that you're not going to be able to
meet with your professors face-to-face. :-)  Okay, here's a
modification of my draft.

Dear <>: 
I'd like to request your help in support of my Ph.D. application
through a letter of recommendation. <You may remember me from...>* I
first wanted to check with to make sure you felt comfortable writing
such a letter. Normally, I'd schedule an appointment with you to
discuss my past studies and future plans. However, as you may know,
I've returned to Taiwan, and unfortunately won't be able to meet with
you face-to-face. To help you comment on my past activities and
academics, I'm preparing a a file of material detailing my background
information that I'd like to forward to you. I also plan on asking
<names of other professors> for letters of recommendations.
The letter will be due <at least 4 weeks in the future>, so I would
like to send you my background information as soon as possible to
allow you adequate time. I very much appreciate your support and look
forward to hearing from you soon.

Note the <You may remember me from...> in brackets.  I'd suggest that
as an optional line in your email depending on your relationship with
the professor.  Obviously, if it's someone you had a close
relationship with or are still corresponding with, you don't need to
remind them who you are. Conversely, if you're not sure they'd
remember you, a "I was your <student> <research assistant> <graduated
with honors from your department> line may help to spark their memory,
especially since they're not going to see you face-to-face.

I don't know the requirements of the school/program that you'll be
applying to. Ifyou already have envelopes for your recommendation
letters -- or are expecting your professors to send them directly to
the school -- you'll want to ensure that they will have adequate
postage.  Similarly, if the letters of recommendation will be coming
back to you, I'd suggest sending your background information by
express regular mail with a stamped return envelope, and getting your
letters of recommendation back on the professor(s)' departmental
letterhead.  In any case, I would try to get the recommendations as
hardcopy. I think that's much more impressive than email.  If you go
the route of sending your background info by regular mail, you may
want to take my colleague leli-ga's recommendation and include a
photograph of yourself to jog the professor's memory.

I think that's all of *my* recommendations.  Best of luck again!

oliversu-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Very Helpful.
Thanks :-)

There are no comments at this time.

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy