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Letter of Recommendation

  1. Oct 22, 2008 #1
    I participated in an REU this past summer and at the moment I am trying to either get an internship/co-op or I would like to continue to do some more research for the summer. I have a few questions regarding letters of recommendation.

    1) Is it inappropriate to ask the professor that I did the REU for this summer for a letter of recommendation for a different REU at a different school? Honestly, I don't feel like I terribly excelled during the REU or even showed that I was all that capable of anything; however, I did enjoy it. He did tell me he would write me a letter of recommendation if I ever needed it, but does it look bad because I am not applying to the same school/program?

    2) Is it too late in the semester to ask for a letter of rec? The due date is in February but we are approaching Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I don't want to be rude to shove a letter request in his face right when it is getting busy.

    I am always wary of asking professors for letters of rec. I would like to attend graduate school and at this point the only professor that I could really ask for a letter is this professor that I did the REU for. I would like to gain more research experience and as well as have another recommendation.

    I am an EE attending a research university if that matters (perhaps my chances of getting accepted into another REU program will be slim since I go to a research uni?)

  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 23, 2008 #2
    In general, I think that the professor wouldn't expect you to return to the same institution for a second REU, and he DID offer to write a letter. It concerns me that you didn't think you performed well at the REU, but your opinion might be different than your REU adviser's opinion. He could always refuse if he doesn't think he could write a strong letter. Generally, for graduate admissions, we would look for letters of recommendation from at least one REU experience (then he'd have something on his hard drive for later if you needed it).

    You've given him plenty of time if he agrees. It doesn't take that long to write a letter... I generally do it if I have at least 1 week so I can squeeze it in somewhere. You might want to send an email (update him if you've been doing anything cool in research or classes at your own university... to show him progress in achievement, etc.... then ask him for recommendation and tell him you'll send a packet via express mail with instructions, forms, stamped envelope, etc.)

    I'm not sure about the last... I haven't been on REU selections before and am not sure how they are done and if there is preference for applicants from smaller non-research institutions.
  4. Oct 23, 2008 #3
    Thanks, for your response. I have a follow up question if I may.

    There are a few REUs that I am interested in that require two letters of recommendation. Since I don't really have any other professors to write me a letter, can I just ask one that I received a good grade from in the past? I never directly talked to him (but it was like a lecture of 100 people). It's kind of in his field, so I figure that might interest him. Can I just email him or should I actually go to his office hours and ask him? I am not very impressive in person so I would honestly feel more comfortable if I did the email route.
  5. Oct 23, 2008 #4


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    No. It's expected you will explore other opportunities.
    Ask him if he can write a good one if this is your concern. You don't want a luke-warm recommendation if you didn't do well, but you might just be harder on yourself than he is.

    That's EARLY to ask. Most students ask with less than a month to spare before a deadline. Heh, which reminds me I have to write a recommendation letter for my former REU student that's due soon.

    We expect to be asked to write letters of recommendation. There is no reason to be fearful of asking. This is just part of the job we do.

    Though, I would point out that in your later post you mention only knowing that one professor well enough to ask for a recommendation, and no others who know you beyond being a body in a lecture hall...you need to remedy that! Your professors need to be able to put a face to a name and a name to your performance, and know what kinds of questions you ask, etc., in order to write a good letter of reference. If all they can write is that you took their class and got a good grade, that's not going to help at all. Start showing up to office hours, ask them about grad school, anything that will help them remember who you are...in a positive way of course.
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