Home Online Learning Requesting an Instructor's Recommendation Requires Work
Requesting an Instructor's Recommendation Requires Work

Requesting an Instructor's Recommendation Requires Work


By Dr. Kathleen Shriver
Faculty Member, School of Business, American Public University

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Imagine the following scenario. You have graduated from APU or AMU, and you are searching for a new job. Maybe you want to enter a higher-level degree program or have applied for a promotion in your current workplace.

One of the requirements for the application is a letter of recommendation from previous university instructors. Your potential employer could also want your instructor to complete an online form on your academic achievements in the class. Instructors may even be asked their opinion of how and if they would recommend you for a position or admittance to a higher or terminal degree education program.

Steps for Asking for an Instructor’s Letter of Recommendation

Most instructors are willing and happy to accommodate your request. However, there is one drawback in the process. Too many times, instructors receive email requests for recommendations for a student, with no other information other than the student’s name. You, the student, need to complete a few items to move forward and get the letter of recommendation.

First, inform the instructor that you would like to add his/her letter of recommendation to your application. In addition, include the type of position you are applying for or the name of the program you are interested in if you’re applying to a university. This way, your instructor can tailor a recommendation to your goal. It is also a best practice to let your instructor know the name of the institution or organization that will contact him or her.

Next, make sure to provide the course name and dates you were enrolled in the class, especially when it is not a class you’re currently taking. While you may have been a memorable student when you were in the class, a university instructor often works with over 450 students each year. It helps your teacher to know which course to access for your academic information and your participation/attendance in the class.

Another issue that often arises is when a student requests a generic recommendation that can be used for several applications as needed. While this is not the preferred avenue for recommendations, it is a possibility and your letter will be written in a generic format.

The letter of recommendation will be saved as a portable document format (PDF) file, so that it cannot be altered. As a courtesy to the instructor, tell him or her when and to whom you forwarded the letter of recommendation.

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Some Instructors May Decline Your Request Due to Their Busy Schedules

On the other hand, do not be disappointed if an instructor declines your request. In the eight-week online courses, it is not always easy to evaluate a student. It is equally difficult to respond to all questions on character and the ability to fit in with the organization’s culture as many university/business applications request.

Online instructors oftentimes do not have face-to-face encounters with students. Your instructor must focus on your participation and interaction with other students in the forum discussions. Also, your instructor is also concerned with the timely submission of assignments, how well you follow directions in the assignments, the amount of time you spend in the classroom and your grades.

Getting a Good Letter of Recommendation Is Helpful

On a final note, asking for an instructor’s letter of recommendation in the right way will help ensure that you receive a recommendation in a timely manner. Hopefully, a good recommendation will also help you reach your goal for a new job or acceptance into a college program.

About the Author

Dr. Kathleen Shriver is an associate professor in the School of Business at American Public University. She holds an M.B.A. in management with a minor in computer information systems from Baker College and a D.B.A. in financial management from Northcentral University.