So I am planning to apply to grad school sometime in the future and would need a letter of recommendation from an awesome professor who I took a time series class with.

I got an A- in the class, he liked my final project a lot and I know he remembers me but how do I maintain a good relationship with a professor after I've graduated?

  • 2
    The best answer would come from the particular professor. Feb 11 '15 at 1:19
  • 5
    If your reason is just to get an LoR later, you don't need to "maintain a relationship." Just ask him, preferably in person, when the time comes.
    – Kimball
    Feb 11 '15 at 1:42
  • What is the harm in getting the letter now?
    – Corvus
    Feb 11 '15 at 2:32
  • Is that even possible? Is it normal for people to get a letter of recommendation now to use much later? Feb 11 '15 at 2:45
  • 1
    @Corvus: I think an admission committee would much rather see a current letter at the time of application, rather than one written months or years earlier. That way, they know the writer's opinion of the applicant's recent work. Feb 11 '15 at 3:28

In addition to the good advice to request the letter now (or let the professor know now that you will request a letter later), I would recommend emailing the professor every year or so between now and then. In addition to letting him/her know what you're up to, say how valuable you've found what you learned in his/her class, if you can do so honestly, although don't overdo it. For example, you might say: "What I learned about Scheme closures in your Programming Languages class turned out to be really useful when working with JavaScript on the job." or "I found your handout on MVC so helpful that I've shared it with my co-workers, who also appreciated it".

I disagree with Farhan about meeting with a professor 2-3 times/year. Professors' time is very valuable, and I would find such a request demanding/awkward.

  • So you disagree meeting a professor twice a year, but suggesting meeting once a year? What I was suggesting was sort of developing a friendship relation with the professors. They like it and appreciate it. Meeting just once a year will appear that the former student is after just the LoR. Btw, everyone's time is very valuable.
    – Farhan
    Feb 12 '15 at 16:20
  • 1
    I suggested email once a year, not meeting once a year. Most professors are too busy to spend time with their own friends, much less make friends with their current or former students. If a student is still on-campus, sure they could poke their head in during my office hours a few times a year or chat with me at department events, but visiting me from off-campus or expecting a chunk of my time more than very rarely would be intrusive. I welcome the perspectives of other professors. Feb 12 '15 at 20:34
  • After my previous comment, I noticed that you are a professor. My father retired as a professor after 40 years. So my answer isn't just arbitrary as I have first hand knowledge about students keeping in touch with professors. What I found odd in your answer is the notion that professors' time is more valuable than others. I work for 50+ hrs/week, not including commute. You are available to public only for 13hrs/week. So you've 155hrs for your life+research. I've less than 100 for that. Anyways, I'm not going to argue more. Thank you.
    – Farhan
    Feb 12 '15 at 21:03
  • I never said that professors' time is more valuable than anybody else's. I would also object to a professor's expecting social time with a student. Furthermore, your presumptions about how much time I have available are not appropriate. Feb 12 '15 at 22:08

If you don't plan to work with or take courses from this professor in the future, I advocate getting a letter of recommendation now instead of waiting. Services such as Interfolio allow your letter writers to upload a letter now that you can send out to any recipient at any time. This way, the professor still remembers you well; I can tell you from experience that after a couple of years of teaching large (>100 student) classes, even my better students start to fade together in my memory.

  • 4
    As I comment above, I don't think an old letter is nearly as effective as a recent one. I'd suggest a middle ground: suggest that the professor might draft a letter now. Then when you are ready to apply, he can use it to jog his memory, update it to reflect your recent work and send it off Feb 11 '15 at 3:30
  • 7
    ask a professor to draft a letter that is NOT due in 10 minutes ? ha !
    – Suresh
    Feb 11 '15 at 6:24

One thing you could do is apply for something now, like a scholarship or award, and secure their letter of reference. Then when you ask for a letter in the future, chances are they'll send out a slightly modified version of the original letter. (Bonus points if you actually get the award.)

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