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When it comes to asking for academic reference, let's say for a graduate application, must I wait until I'm done with my final exams or until the semester ends before I email my professor to write me a reference or am I able to ask them to write me one while the semester or finals have not yet ended?

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You can ask at any time. The professor might want to wait until you finish to complete and send the letter, but you can ask earlier. They would then have a chance to think about what to say and to look out for things in your interactions that might affect the outcome.

If there are early deadlines, then let the professor know of them, of course. They will likely comply or let you know that they can't write a letter for you. Yes, Ask.

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