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Approaching A Professor?

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After the advice given in my last thread, I would like to seek advice for a newer dilemma. After emailing three professors, only one had gotten back agreeing to meet to further discuss a Letter of Recommendation. I really need three letters and the other two professors are ones that I have worked with for research/know my academic work and had gotten over 70% in their courses. My question is, if I send a follow up email to schedule time to discuss a letter of recommendation can I approach them in person? If so, any suggestions on how to approach it since I have not received a response?


Thank you for any help you can give as I have a lot of stress approaching a professor as it is an awkward situation. 

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Approaching them in person during office hours or even after class (provided they have the time to talk) is not at all weird. I contacted two of mine via email and one in person, and fortunately didn't have any problems. 


It's odd that a professor just flat out wouldn't respond to any email, unless they didn't want to write you a letter; even if so, my assumption would be that they would tell you if they weren't comfortable doing it rather than just leave you hanging. I'd send another email, and if they don't respond a second time, I'd search for someone else to write a letter.

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I did my best to book meetings to approach them in person first before bringing up the letter. This way, it wasn't like they were implicitly agreeing by saying yes to a meeting without knowing what they were getting into. If those meetings were taking too long to happen then I asked over email (at least I had initiated a string of contact and they knew I was trying to find them). I felt like it was better to bring it up in person for a few reasons. The prof has no way of telling if you sent that request email to just them or to 50 people. Meeting in person may come off as more thoughtful/confident and you can judge their mood, as well as provide some lead-up info ("You remember how great I am and how wonderful I was in your class... I think that you have seen qualities X Y and Z in my work and I'd love for you to speak about that...") to frame the question. One of the referees I wanted was clearly in a bad mood when I finally got to meet with her, and I knew that my question would not be well received on that day.

The downside was that my insistence on waiting til we met face-to-face was difficult/stressful because my profs were SO busy when I started trying to ask, over a month before letters were due. I ended up asking over email for some because the last thing you want to do is leave them with zero time - this may reflect in the quality and tone of the letter, as well as putting strain on your relationship. 


tl;dr - Go to their office hours or book a meeting for something else, and bring it up as soon as possible. It's not weird. At all. They will appreciate you asking. Come up with a list of back-ups and begin reaching out. Who knows - one of those letters might actually be stronger! 

Edited by zupgiusto
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I found that just approaching professors to talk about graduate programs in general invited the conversation to steer toward LoRs. 


As far as -how- to do it, it depends on what you think is best or most respectful of them. Approaching them during office hours is completely fine, not weird at all, but they probably won't be able to sit down and talk to you right then about it. I found that they appreciated scheduling an official meeting time together and then sending a follow-up email as a reminder. It will definitely be good to maybe think of some alternates, though. Just in case. Good luck!

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