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I have had a different set of professors every semester and as batch sizes are pretty big ~80, and with every professor dealing with 3-4 separate batches of equivalent size, for barely 3-4 months at a time, it has been hard to develop one to one relationships with professors. In such a scenario,

  • How do I decide whom to approach for a recommendation?

  • How should I go about this to get a good recommendation, in this specific scenario?

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3 Answers 3

Given the OP’s situation explained in his question and the following comments that he has trouble with getting recommendation letters written by his professors themselves, if I were him I would

Find the professor who would write the recommendation letter himself.

Find the professor who taught the class which I had very good grade.

Find the professor who taught the class in which I was most interested.

Usually, I need three recommendation letters. Now, I have three.

My personal experience is that I tend to have good grades when taking the class I am very interested. If I had good grade in a class I was interested, the chances are the professor would remember me and more willing to write the recommendation letter himself for me.

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In addition to scaahu's fine answer, even though I know it is difficult in some places, I would emphasize that students should begin to develop personal relationships with professors long before you need one to write a recommendation letter.

My experience is even with mass lecture classes like you describe (and those aren't even that massive - but 3-4 mass lectures are quite a few per semester) if you take the time to meet with the professor, ask for extra curricular work (e.g. to be involved with projects the professors are conducting), or be very active and engaged within class you can develop that relationship a professors needs to write a quality recommendation letter.

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I am always more willing to write a recommendation letter for students who make the effort to come to office hours. Even if it is just to chat about the subject (vice getting help), it shows an interest in the course. –  Chris Gregg Mar 30 '13 at 11:51
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While both saaahu's answer and Andy W's answer are on target, I will add my thoughts.

Make yourself known to the prof from whom you want the letter. You can do this in many ways. If you sit in the front or are particularly active in that class, the prof will naturally remember you (and naturally feel more comfortable that he/she know enough about you to write a recommendation letter).

If you want a letter from someone whose class you took a while ago and you did not do anything to stand out, then you must take up some extra work now (see if you can help that prof with some projects so he/she can get to know you more).

For me, I don't expect students to develop a relationship with me long before they need a letter but I do expect them to make their abilities known to me. I've had students who are silent in my classes then come to me and ask for a reference. When I tell them 'sorry, I don't know enough about you' they get a little sad but they also understand quite quickly when I explain things to them.

So, if you want a letter, help the prof to help you.

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