OMG UPDATE: Question? Answer.

Updated on Friday, September 12


QUESTION: I want to ask a Prof for a letter of recommendation. I took one class with him in my last year. He was one of my favourite Profs at UW (and one of the very best, imo). I thoroughly enjoyed and learned so much from his class. He knows about my academic background (he was my academic advisor in my last year) and I emailed him to ask some questions during that year, but aside from that I didn't speak with him in class, as I'm stupidly shy in general. I'm not in Waterloo now, but I'm considering contacting him, asking for a LOR for a grad program. Do Profs turn people down when they ask for LORs?


  1. 99% sure he'll give you a letter, it's part of his jobs. how good of a letter it will be depends on how much he knows you though, so don't expect a stellar one. since its grad school, better ask someone you did research with (you did research before entering grad school, right? Right???)
    wild guess here, but are you in bio? who's the prof?

  2. Depends on whether it's an academic reference or a personal one.

    Academic references usually just require a commentary on your academic performance (e.g. grades, effort, projects, notable achievements in the course), so theoretically they should be easier to get. Personal references, on the other hand, require good knowledge of your personality as well. For these, profs will be less inclined to write them if they don't know you well.

    I had to provide academic references when I applied for grad. school. According to the admissions officer for my program, profs at UW should give these without a problem.

    YMMV, though. One of my profs was a little hesitant writing me a LOR because he didn't know me that well, but he eventually came around because I got a 90 on his course. Another one of my profs refused vehemently because he didn't know me, even though I got a 92 on his course.

    My advice: Give it a shot. It seems like there's a good chance the prof will remember you. Worst case scenario, he'll refuse. No biggie. You'll know to look for someone else.

    1. Thanks. It's an academic letter.

  3. what do you have to lose?

  4. If I was him I would not give you a LOR or at least not a great one (very generic). I would still ask though if he doesnt really know you, he cannot ethically give you that good of a LOR as he has little to comment on.

  5. ^ OP! He already said NO if you don't ask!

  6. A prof will generally give you a letter of recommendation. HOWEVER it is generally not a good idea to just go to a professor you enjoyed and did well in their class for.

    The worst thing you can get in a letter is something generic, like "so-and-so took my class and performed well in it". It may actually do more harm than good. If you are worried you should ask them if they feel comfortable enough writing a letter of recommendation. They are much more likely to answer this question in a way where you can make a better judgement.