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I would like to ask my former professor for a reference, I'm not sure how to formulate it and am worried the professor won't remember me. I submitted a good essay in her class though (got an A).

Can I write:

Dear Professor,

I studied with you 2 years ago, I don't know if you remember. In any case, I submitted a good essay in your class and wanted to ask you for a letter of recommendation?

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A better outline might be somehting like:

Dear Professor Smith,

I am planning to apply to Teleportation programme at the University of Wonderland for my graduate studies. They require two reference letters, and your area of interest is related to the programme I am applying to.

Would you please be kind enough to write a letter of recommendation?

I have taken your course Introduction to Supernatural Incidents (ISI 101) in 2016 - 2017 Fall semester, and you have noted that one of my assignments were outstanding.

Keep in mind that if you suspect that the professor wouldn't even remember you, it is better not to ask that professor for a letter of recommendation, because chances are they are going to write a mediocre letter.

Why did I pick this outline

Because first of all, the reason for you writing a mail should be explained at the first sentence. An avarage professor mailbox receives around 100 mails per day. Thus, they decide whether or not to read the full mail in a few seconds.

The actual reason for such mail is your application for graduate studies, and you give solid reasons for the letter of recommendation. Note that in your outline, the letter of recommendation is just mentioned. It seems like you wanted to remind the professor that you were his student, and handed in a good essay.

Another reason is, the punctiation and language. Although overly-formal emails are not good, using a proper language helps.

To sum up, the professor wants to know three things very clearly, and as soon as possible:

  1. Why are you writing this mail?
  2. What do you want from me?
  3. Why would I grant your wish?
  • thanks a lot. I don't think he will remember me immediately from my name, but I think that if I remind him of the essay I wrote, he will probably remember. Do you think that's a bad strategy? – userjmillohara Jan 21 '18 at 16:15
  • He probably had more dozens of good essays in past two years. But maybe it would be helpful if you got A from that course. It is a nice justification to write a LOR based on the semester grade. – padawan Jan 21 '18 at 16:17
  • Thanks. Could you also explain what makes your outline better? I would just like to understand why you structured it the way you did / what's your thinking behind it. – userjmillohara Jan 21 '18 at 16:21
  • @J.Miller I have edited my answer to respond your comment. – padawan Jan 21 '18 at 16:31

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