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Asking a rec from a prof I don't know well

ab2013ab2013 Registered User Posts: 1,756 Senior Member
edited November 2012 in Graduate School
Hi all,

I did really well in this class (in my major) and most of the advisors I've talked to have said that this would be a good prof to ask a rec from. However, the problem is that I know this prof at all ... I never participated in class, I never asked questions, I never went to office hours ... (because I was busy going to office hours for other classes)

Should I ask him for a rec? I don't know him very well. Should I just an e-mail if I do ask for a rec?
Post edited by ab2013 on

Replies to: Asking a rec from a prof I don't know well

  • andrew1007andrew1007 Registered User Posts: 24 New Member
    Emailing for a letter of rec is perfectly fine, even if you don't know them. Not only will he/she most likely say yes, but you have nothing to lose from just asking. Keep in mind though, that since this professor doesn't know you, you WILL get a generic LOR that will only talk about your academics, and nothing of your character, motivation, passions, etc etc.

    I personally asked a professor that I don't know at all either- I placed 4th out of ~55 students in an upper division chemistry course, so I asked. I'm considering that the weakest LOR out of the 3 I have.
  • ab2013ab2013 Registered User Posts: 1,756 Senior Member
    Hmm ... interesting. How should I phrase this e-mail? I imagine it's going to be short and fairly awkward, even if it's courteous.

    Actually, my advisors told me that I should ask the professor whose class I excelled in the most even though that would be a generic one. I did end up asking a professor who also was my program advisor for most of my undergrad, though I didn't do that well in his class (got a B+), but I was really involved in his class / office hours so I'm hoping that plays in my favor, and I think he knows me fairly well. The third one is going to be research-based for sure; I'm just debating between the one I did first-year (which was absolutely huge because my research sponsor ended up getting a huge grant from the feds and my work helped contribute to it) and the one I did/am still involved with, which is much smaller in impact/significance but much closer to my interests now.
  • dapi12345dapi12345 Registered User Posts: 29 New Member
    Lors from research are much better than generic - get lors from past and current PIs, then only one academic letter. I applied with only research letters and it worked out very well.
  • ab2013ab2013 Registered User Posts: 1,756 Senior Member
    Even for a Masters program?
  • andrew1007andrew1007 Registered User Posts: 24 New Member
    The more they know you, the better your LOR will sound (normally). Obviously, a PI is better than a professor you simply took classes with, because they can talk about more than just your academics- this gives a more complete image of you for you to be judged by.

    But you sound like you don't have the opportunities dapi talks about- I'm on the same boat as you. Make do with what you can and try and make sure your statement of purpose is top notch.
  • ab2013ab2013 Registered User Posts: 1,756 Senior Member
    Actually, right now I think I will ask the prof I did research with first year and the one I'm with now (been with him since beginning of junior year), and my program advisor who also taught me in a class, though I didn't do too well in his class. It's been suggested to me that I can ask managers from previous internships (have had 2 by now), but it sounds like grad schools prefer LORs from people in academia. I'm just worried that the LOR from first year is a bit too old or outdated because I've learned alot more in my field and my interests have changed since then, which is why I sort of want to get a generic LOR in a class I excelled in, because that class is very recent (last semester) and I want to highlight the fact that my grades are trending upwards (rebounding from a relatively disastrous fourth semester at a 3.0 that semester to a 3.6 last semester).

    How do I get feedback on my SOP? Is it a good idea to ask my undergrad advisors (who are also professors who teach and do research but are not on the grad admissions committee)?
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