Note: This article is a continuation of Letters of Rec Part I. Check it out here.
If you can, pop the question in person and send the recommender a follow-up email later that day. But these are professors, so sometimes an in person meeting can be hard/impossible to come by…. Here’s an email I sent to a professor last fall to request a LoR (slightly edited for date /name/etc and bolded for emphasis).
Hi Dr. Awesome!
Happy Fall Quarter! Hope all is well! I am writing today to ask if you would be willing to serve as a reference for me as I move on to the next phase of my academic life. This would include submitting a letter of recommendation or reference form for two fellowships (NSF and NDSEG) as well as to the various [Bioengineering PhD] graduate programs to which I am applying.
If you are willing to help out with this, please let me know. I can send you my CV, transcripts, and essays. I am still finalizing the list of schools to which I am applying, but as soon as I get that hammered out, I can send you a chart of the deadlines and submission procedures (email, online form, etc.) for each school.
First up, however, is the NSF fellowship; letters of recommendation are due to the online system on Funday, Month 99th, at 55pm Pacific.
Finally, if you have any time to meet this quarter, please let me know. If you would like to meet next week to get a sense of what you would like to say, that would be great; I am free [at these times]. If this doesn't work for you, I would love to chat later this quarter.
Thanks a million!
All the best,
-You should ABSOLUTELY send recommenders your CV, transcript (unofficial via email), and at least one version of your personal statement and research statement. This way, they can brag about all aspects of you. Also this helps ensure that what they say about you is cohesive with what you say about you.
-Organization: Ask ASAP, even if your essays aren’t done yet. Send all the relevant info soon after, including a chart of deadlines, schools, and admission procedures. If you don’t get an email confirming that they’ve submitted anything, send them a 1-week reminder (profs can be last-minute types too!).
-Offer to meet to discuss the rec, but don’t expect to. Some profs like to meet and chat; some don’t. Leave it up to them.
-Gratitude! Send a thank you note once they submit their letters. Bonus for handwritten!!
Note: Some people attach executive summary-type documents that basically highlight the most relevant portions of their CV with explanations of their personal contributions to various projects, etc. I knew my recommenders pretty well beforehand and met with most of them in person, so I didn’t. Some people find this to be too heavy-handed, but if you’re worried about the rec this is a definite option.
Be respectful, be organized, rally your inner strength, and just ask! Good luck!
Grad Gal Sal