I graduated with my bachelors recently and started working full time for the employer I had while I was a student. My employer has offered to pay for my tuition if I want to go back to school for my masters degree at the local university, but I have a slight dilemma.

I made a fatal mistake as a student by not developing a close relationship with any of my professors. I need to provide 3 letters of recommendation for my application. I'm comfortable with asking several people I work with/for (I've worked with them for about 3 years now), but there are probably only two professors that might remember me at all, let alone know enough about me to write anything specific in their letter of recommendation. Would it be best to just provide letters of recommendation from my coworkers/supervisors with graduate degrees in my field, or should I try to ask one of my previous professors as well?

It's just a state university that's not very difficult to get into, and I graduated with a really good GPA in my undergrad at the same university, but I don't know how heavily they weigh the letters of recommendation in their decisions.

Thanks in advance

  • 1
    "I made a fatal mistake as a student by not developing a close relationship with any of my professors. " - That's usually not a fatal mistake. Developing a close relationship may help, but from my experience professors are willing to write letters of recommendations even if they do not personally know you. As suggested in the answer below I would ask anyway and perhaps add at the end of the letter that you offer to meet with them (that way, if they feel like they do not know you enough, they have a chance to do so now).
    – Yanko
    Feb 25, 2022 at 20:10

2 Answers 2


Talk to the two professors anyway. I'd ask them if they're comfortable writing a recommendation letter for you, and if not, for suggestions about what to do. If they both don't remember you, approach the head of department. No matter how long ago you graduated, professors at your alma mater can help you apply for graduate studies. In your case as well, 3 years is not that long.

That said, since you need three letters of recommendation I'd be ready to approach your work colleagues. Given they have graduate degrees, they will have some idea what is necessary to succeed and can therefore write effective letters. They might even be able to comment on how your studies will help your work, which would add a dimension to the "why do you want to do graduate studies" question that's almost standard on most applications.

I would expect your eventual application to have one letter from your alma mater, and two from your work colleagues.

  • When asked for a letter from a student I do not remember, I would look in my records about how well they did in my class; my letter would report on that. If I know nothing else about the student, then of course my letter would say nothing else about them.
    – GEdgar
    Feb 25, 2022 at 22:02

Firstly, LORs are hugely important especially if this is a research field. They can make or break an application. Definitely reach out to faculty members at the University you got your degree at. LORs from faculty members often outweigh all other sources, because it is faculty members who will be responsible for advising you. Including LORs from current supervisors isn't a bad idea, but I would avoid co-workers and stick to those who oversee your work and mentor you as a professional. Strongest LORs come from those who have evaluated you by the same metrics that a prospective advisor would. Whether they have a graduate degree is less relevant than their current rank and their relationship to you.

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