How to Engage with Faculty and Navigate Letters of Recommendation

Are you interested in graduate school but worried about how to navigate the letters of recommendation process?   Here is a list of ways you can navigate this process, from Professor Joanne Zinger: 

  • Work as a research assistant in a research lab 
  • Work as a learning assistant or a peer tutor for a professor
  • Go to office hours multiple times in the same quarter (with the same professor)
  • Sit in the front row (or front few rows), arrive to class early, and take notes by hand - that way, the professor will better recognize you (and be impressed by you)
  • Take multiple classes from the same professor (if possible)
  • Take as many small classes are possible (as professors get to know you better in a small class) - and if possible, arrange it so you take field study (a small class) from a professor that you already took another class from (that way, you will have taken at least one large class and at least one small class from that professor)
  • If a professor is speaking at an event (e.g., meet and greet) and/or organizes an event (e.g., career panel), attend the event and then email the professor afterwards to tell them how helpful you found the event to be (or even better, come to their office hours to tell them)
  • If you attend office hours (or class)  via zoom, turn on your camera.  Every time.
  • Earn good grades and have excellent attendance (especially in classes that track attendance through iclicker or polleverywhere)
  • When asking for a letter, ideally make the request at least 6 weeks in advance - and attached your resume/CV (and a picture of yourself!) to your email.  The picture will help the professor remember who you are (and will humanize you, making it more likely for them to agree). 

Good luck!