Letters of Rec part Deux
November 16, 2012 12:30 PM   Subscribe

I asked a professor for a letter of recommendation a year ago, but my plans changed and I didn't use it to apply for anything. I'd like to ask her for another one this year, and I would appreciate some advice on how to approach her about it.

Last year I was planning on applying to medical school, and asked a professor for a letter of rec. It was a difficult class (anatomy and physiology) and they needed all the help they could get, so she had a policy that she would only write letters of rec for students who got two semesters of A's and then spent a third semester as a voluntary assistant TA.

I requested and received the letter, however shortly afterwards, I came to my senses and realized that the life of a doctor was going to make me miserable. Instead, I spent another year in undergrad and am now blissfully happy applying to grad programs in archaeology.

I think this professor could write me a strong letter, but I'd like some advice on how to approach the situation. From previous AskMe's, I see that professors get annoyed when they write letters of rec and don't hear back from the students about how things turned out. I can understand that, I regret not sending her an update after my plans changed.

I realize that I'm probably overthinking the hell out of this, I suspect that being a pre-med for 2 years conditioned me to beanplate every single minute detail about "getting in." I could really use some advice about how to ask her for this second letter though, I can't seem to get over this frustrating mental block I've created for myself.
posted by TungstenChef to Education (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If it was just a year ago and it's a med school app, she's probably used to a long delay between the request and the results...did you thank her for the letter when it happened?
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:36 PM on November 16, 2012

Yeah, it's better to keep your referees updated. It's not like the end of the world if you didn't.

Since she's already put in the effort to write the letter she probably will be happy to send it out again, and unless she's an MD herself, she probably won't care that you aren't going to med school.
posted by grouse at 12:50 PM on November 16, 2012

Yeah, we store these so the second one isn't anywhere near as big a deal. Write with plenty of notice, explain that things didn't work out but you've now found something academic that's really fulfilling, and ask nicely if she'll send a letter to your new course.
posted by cromagnon at 1:11 PM on November 16, 2012

Professors and teachers get asked for references all the time. Generally they keep them on file and just tweak them a bit. It's really part of the job these days, but be sure to thank her.
posted by Isadorady at 1:18 PM on November 16, 2012

Thank her for the letter last year.
Tell her things didn't work out with that school.
Then say that you are currently applying to this other school for this reason.
Ask her politely if she could please write another letter of recommendation.
Thank her again.

No big.
posted by inturnaround at 1:23 PM on November 16, 2012

Sometimes when I am overthinking things and anxious, it helps me to think about the worst case scenario. Here, the worst case scenario is that she refuses to write the letter / doesn't write back to you. Then, you're no worse off than if you hadn't asked her.

So, yeah - ask her.
posted by insectosaurus at 5:04 PM on November 16, 2012

Just ask politely. Professors have an interest in seeing their good students succeed.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 5:11 PM on November 16, 2012

Awesome, thanks for humoring my obsessive paranoid tendencies. I think I just needed to hear what I already suspected to be true, I'm off to write that email.
posted by TungstenChef at 9:11 PM on November 16, 2012

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