I will be going for my undergraduate thesis under a professor (at a different institute than my home university) in May 2018. I will work with him from May - December 2018. I plan to apply to graduate school (for my masters) for fall 2019, so applications will be done around November 2018.

Since some professors have different policies of writing recommendations for students (for some 6 months is a short time of work to write a good letter, some have other conditions), I am thinking about asking the professor whether he would be willing to write recommendation letters for my applications during November, provided of course he is satisfied with my work.

I thought this would be better to get out of the way beforehand, so that he will know that I am willing to do substantial work during this time, and am willing to take on as much work as he feels is necessary to do before he can write a strong recommendation letter. This will also help me strategise for graduate school admissions and prevent me from being put on the spot if he refuses to write a recommendation in November.

Is this (asking about recommendation beforehand) a standard practice? I feel he shouldn't mind because I am trying to cover all my bases and plan for my future. I feel it will be better for the both of us if we agree on all such conditions beforehand.

1 Answer 1


You're hugely overthinking this.

  • It's normal for an undergraduate project student to ask their supervisor for references
  • It's normal to be making applications, and requesting references, before your course of study is complete

Consequently, your future supervisor knows that he may well be asked to provide a reference for you and doens't need "warning" of that fact now. Asking him now won't cause him to increase your workload, although it's unlikely to do any harm (context: OP seems to consider an increased workload to be good) either.

That said, once you know what you're applying for, you should give him details and ask him if he is willing to provide a reference well in advance of any deadlines. This will give him time to prepare a reference letter (or whatever's required) and will enable him to tailor it to your specific applications; it will also prevent him being caught unprepared if they just phone him and ask him about you.

  • First line summarises my life.
    – James Bond
    Feb 17, 2018 at 17:35

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