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How to ask for LOR when you already graduated?

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So I have graduated my undergrad and took my time away from school for about a year. I am trying to apply for graduate programs in biochemistry/chemistry, and I have 3 professors in mind.

Recommender 1 would be my research advisor, so he would be the one who could talk about my skills and accomplishments in his lab, my capability, etc.

Recommender 2 is the professor whom I took upper level medicine biology class for study abroad. The relationships I have with this professor is with some conversations, and I talked with him several times asking for help to get me into the study abroad program. I recently emailed him, and he said he definitely remembers me. 

Recommender 3 is the professor I took a biotech class with. I don't have too much relationship with him. I went to his office hours one time, and I had a pretty good conversation in talking about my future goals, research interests, and what I want to do after graduation. 

It has been almost a year since I left the school, and I moved back home. I had a pretty good relationship with my research advisor (Recommender 1), and possibly Recommender 2 since I studied abroad with him. I am planning to apply for Fall 2020, so I would be starting/submitting my applications in August-October this year. How would I come about asking all three of them for LOR? I don't want to simply email bug them since that might not result in good letters. I want to travel back to campus and meet with all of them to talk about LOR. Is this the ideal, good way to ask them? If so, what time frame should I do this? I was thinking now (March/April) would be too early, and I'm afraid they might forget about me by the time application comes around. 

One more thing, how can I convince Recommender 2 and 3 for a strong recommendation letter? Should I provide them with lots of information of what my research interests are? I'm concerned that since I only took their lecture courses, the letters may be general without my research characteristics.

Thank you for your thoughts, really!

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I'm in a very different discipline, but I was nervous about asking for LORs since I took a year off from school and never got close to any of my professors to begin with. I had to email 6 people before enough of them agreed. Frankly, I think the only reason any of them remembered me is because I talked a lot in class. When I emailed them, I discussed what I had done since graduation, my current writing, and my career goals. I also had one professor request a current writing sample.

I assume the letters were fine since I got into multiple schools. Long story short, I think it's nice that you want to visit them in person, but it may not be necessary. I would only do it if it's easy to get to your alma mater (not an option for me since I moved 2k miles away after graduation). Sending emails was awkward, but professors get those emails all the time, and it's not going to offend them.

I would, however, make sure you send them a handwritten thank you note!

Edited by feralgrad
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  • 1 month later...

Hi FlyingGoldFish,

I am going to second that you don’t need to go to campus unless it’s a really easy trip. In two rounds of grand school applications I’ve sat down with 1 professor and I live 4 or 5 miles away. They are typically busy and email is a quick and normal part of their day, (some will prefer it over face to face). If you have a good relationship with #1 they could be a help with information that profs want when being asked for a rec within your field of study. 

My personal experience in my masters application was that being very pleasant and offering to send them a few paragraphs on what I’ve done and and what I want for my educational future was plenty. I would just say be concise. 

Also I wouldn’t worry about a year off. I took 6 off and 5 off.  Even if you need to remind them of who you are, they are teachers, they are into higher education, they get asked all the time for LOR’s and tend to be excited to have people looking to advance. 


Best of luck!

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