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Requesting A Reference From Professor Or Advisor: Email Guide

21+ Letters of Sample Templates

As a student, you may need to request a reference from a professor or advisor for various purposes such as job applications, internships, scholarships, or graduate school admissions. However, crafting an appropriate email that respectfully and effectively conveys your request can be challenging. In this guide, we will provide you with a step-by-step approach to writing a reference request email that maximizes your chances of getting a positive response from your professor or advisor.

1. Understand the Purpose of a Reference

Before you request a reference, you need to understand the purpose of it. A reference is a statement that vouches for your character, skills, achievements, and potential as a student or professional. It serves as a validation of your qualifications and credibility, and it can make a significant difference in the outcome of your endeavor, whether it is getting hired, accepted, or awarded.

2. Choose the Right Person

Choosing the right person to ask for a reference is essential. You want to select someone who knows you well, has a positive opinion of you, and can speak positively about your abilities. Ideally, you should choose someone who has taught you in a relevant subject or has supervised you in a relevant task. If you are not sure whom to choose, you can ask your academic advisor or mentor for advice.

3. Plan Ahead

Requesting a reference should not be a last-minute decision. You should plan ahead and give your professor or advisor enough time to write a thoughtful and detailed letter. Generally, you should request a reference at least two to three weeks in advance of the deadline. However, if you need it urgently, you can explain your situation and ask if they can accommodate your request.

4. Write a Polite and Professional Email

The tone and language of your email are crucial. You want to be polite, respectful, and professional in your approach. Begin with a salutation that addresses your professor or advisor appropriately, using their title and surname. Introduce yourself and remind them of your relationship, such as the course you took with them or the project you worked on together. Be clear and specific about the purpose of your email, and explain why you are requesting a reference from them. Provide them with the necessary details, such as the deadline, format, and submission instructions. Thank them in advance for their time and consideration, and offer to provide any additional information or materials that might be helpful.

5. Follow up and Express Gratitude

After you have sent your email, you should follow up with your professor or advisor to confirm that they have received your request and to thank them for their willingness to write a reference for you. You can also offer to provide them with any updates or developments that might be relevant to your application. Once you have received the reference, you should express your gratitude by sending a thank-you note or email, acknowledging their effort and support, and letting them know the outcome of your endeavor.

6. Sample Email Template

Subject: Request for Reference Letter

Dear Dr./Prof. Last Name,

I hope this email finds you well. I am writing to request a reference letter from you as I am applying for [insert purpose, e.g., graduate school, internship, scholarship, job].

I took your [insert course name] course during [insert semester and year] and was impressed by your knowledge, teaching style, and mentorship. The skills and insights I gained from your class have been invaluable to me, and I believe they will contribute to my success in [insert field or program].

The application deadline is on [insert date], and I would appreciate it if you could write a reference letter for me by [insert date] in [insert format, e.g., PDF, Word]. The letter should highlight my academic achievements, skills, and potential, and demonstrate my suitability for the program or position. Please let me know if you need any additional information or materials from me.

Thank you for considering my request, and I appreciate your time and effort in writing the reference letter. Your support means a lot to me, and I will keep you updated on the outcome of my application. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.

Best regards,

Your Name


Requesting a reference from a professor or advisor is a critical step in achieving your academic and professional goals. By following the guidelines in this email guide, you can increase your chances of getting a positive response and a strong reference that highlights your best qualities. Remember to choose the right person, plan ahead, write a polite and professional email, follow up, and express gratitude. Good luck!


1. What should I do if my professor or advisor declines to write a reference letter for me?

If your professor or advisor declines to write a reference letter for you, you should respect their decision and ask for feedback on how you can improve your qualifications or performance. You can also seek references from other sources, such as employers, mentors, or community leaders.

2. How many references should I request?

The number of references you should request depends on the requirements of your application. Generally, you should request at least two to three references, but you can ask for more if needed. Make sure to choose references who can provide a comprehensive and diverse perspective on your abilities and potential.

3. How should I prepare my professor or advisor to write a strong reference letter?

You can prepare your professor or advisor to write a strong reference letter by providing them with relevant information and materials, such as your resume, transcripts, personal statement, or work samples. You can also remind them of your achievements, skills, and goals, and explain how the program or position aligns with them. Finally, you can offer to meet with them in person or online to discuss your request and answer any questions they may have.

Sarah Thompson is a career development expert with a passion for helping individuals achieve their professional goals. With over a decade of experience in the field, Sarah specializes in providing practical advice and guidance on job search strategies, cover letters, resumes, and interview techniques. She believes in empowering job seekers with the knowledge and tools necessary to navigate the competitive job market successfully.

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