How To Get A Letter of Recommendation

andy001

Member
Hi all,
What is the best way to get a letter of recommendation? I want to email my professors to set up an appointment but Im not sure if I should include the fact that the meeting is about a letter of rec. I know it's not the best way to just ask for on over an email, I'd rather do it in person but how do I go about doing that. How did you approach this?

Thanks
 

Septopus7

Moderator
Staff member
Supporting Member
I just asked for it over email, and that worked fine for me. And I went through about five different professors over all my applications.

My thinking was that they were all pretty busy people, and I didn't want to take much of their time. But if you have like a REALLY close relationship with someone you are asking, then I see no problem just going into their office hours and bringing it up. It's a part of their job and, if they like you (which I hope they do if you are asking them for a letter!), they will do it with little pressure.

Now getting them to do it in on-time is another issue entirely, but once again: professors are busy people.
 

BuddernScotch

Active Member
Beg and sound pitiful in the email.

LOL

No seriously, profs are used to doing recommendations over email. Especially if they're arts & humanities professors - they'll write you a stellar letter.

I like sep had to go through several profs over the years but only 1 said no after 3 times (3rd year applying). I have never heard of a prof the first time you ask being like - no you can't be recommended go away.

Gluck!
 
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Naya86

Member
Professor's get asked for letters during office hours all the time. It's part of their job. If you want to strategize it (hate to sound like a robot here), visit them at least twice before asking for the recommendation. Be sure to participate heavily in class discussions, of course. This advice only applies if you're a student, though.

If you're not a current student, and you have a strong relationship with a professor, you can invite them for coffee. Then you can tell them about your grad school goals and politely request a letter (I did this for one of mine). If meeting up is not an option, you'll have no other choice but to ask for the letter via email. Be sure to clearly outline the schools your applying to, the programs, deadlines, and some pointers on what you'd like them to mention (this can be delicate; do so at your own discretion). Another one of my professors set up a Skype call where we thoroughly discussed my plans and talking points for the recommendation. Pretty easy.

I know it sounds daunting to ask people for favors, especially illustrious individuals, but from my experience, professors genuinely like to write letters for their students. The see it as a service in that they get to help someone accomplish their goals; moreover, they also get bragging rights if they ever see your name in the credits of a feature film or television show (this is a joke but I'd wager there is some truth to it).
 

popsicles

Member
I always requested mine over email too. Asking to meet for a unknown reason might make people nervous, lol.

I'd strongly recommend outlining the courses/work you did previously in the email, though – will probably mean a more detailed letter.

I think I wrote a few short paragraphs in the initial emails if we did thesis work or a specific project together too. And how much the letter would mean to me, etc. I think everyone I requested sent back a request for: 1) list of schools 2) optional personal statement 3) visual sample, fwiw.
 

yisiling

Member
I asked one of my rec letter over a email and one over a text message. Just make sure your professor knows you really well. If s/he doesn't know you personally, make sure you stand out from the class, that you get an A from the class or he remembers you. Sometimes the professor will be busy, so make sure you are up to the job to write it and you can send it over for him to edit if he wants.
 

HarryMelodies

New Member
I'll also throw in the idea of getting letters from people who aren't your professors.

Only one of the three letters I used for applications was from a professor. Another letter was from an actor I had directed and my co-producer on a film I made. Having people who aren't just your professors can gave review committees a more well rounded view of who you are as a person, rather than how some of your professors view you as a student.
 

IndecisiveElle

Active Member
Supporting Member
Contributor
I'll also throw in the idea of getting letters from people who aren't your professors.

Only one of the three letters I used for applications was from a professor. Another letter was from an actor I had directed and my co-producer on a film I made. Having people who aren't just your professors can gave review committees a more well rounded view of who you are as a person, rather than how some of your professors view you as a student.
Same. I only had one professor rec because I'd been out of undergrad for about 4 years. I only had that one because we remained close and I worked for him for several years too. I had ADs I'd worked for previously write my other letters.
 

Isabehl

Member
Supporting Member
I also worried about the best way to approach my writers. I ended up going with emails as my initial contact. I just briefly explained that I was in the process of applying to graduate film programs (& listed the schools), wondered if they would consider writing a letter of recommendation for me to include with my applications, and asked if they would have time to meet to discuss it in person.

I figured that way if they ended up being someone who finds requests made over email impersonal, I was still technically allowing for an opportunity to formally ask in person and was merely being conscious of their busy schedule! ;)
 

Fernando González Ortiz

Member
Supporting Member
When I requested mine I had a nice and odd combination of employers and professors. My approach with cold emails was:
For professors
  1. Say hi and ask about their life/work recently
  2. quickly talk about me and say that the purpose of the email was a recommendation letter
  3. Talk about your plans and interests and instead of requesting the cover letter ask: I would love to get your input on y options, I remember you went there, or that you did this or that.
  4. Tell them that you are open for a quick chat in person or a video call to get their opinions.
In the call you can then requested face to face

For employer/boss
I literally asked him that it would mean the world to me and explain why I chose that person. I asked a VFX supervisor that I needed that letter because he could talk about my work-ethics, creativity, and ability to handle multiple artists and studios.

Extra:
It helps to give them pointers on why you are asking them, it makes it sound specific for them(they may be flattered) and it also helps them write it out.
If you know someone that wen through that MFA, it may be helpful to get that letter from an alumni.
 

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