Is it possible to acquire a letter of recommendation without meeting face to face?


Solution 1

I write letters all the time for students I've taught, but whom I haven't seen for a long period. I do ask for specific information:

  • Tell me what the deadline is!
  • Include your student number.
  • Remind me which of my classes you have taken, and when.
  • How did you distinguish yourself in those classes?
  • How would you describe yourself? What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? I am going to have to answer those questions when I write your reference, so the more details the better. I have to have personal knowledge of anything I write, so remind me of those things I may have forgotten.
  • What are some of your academic and nonacademic accomplishments that I may not know about?
  • Tell why you're particularly qualified for the job, educational program, or award you're applying for.
  • What makes me particularly qualified to write a letter for you? That is, why should the recipient of the letter value it over a letter from someone else?
  • Include a copy of your application essay.

Put that stuff together, write the professor a note saying, "As the deadline of [whenever it is] is approaching, I thought the following material might help you. Thank you again for agreeing to write a recommendation."

The professor who has that material to hand can complete a letter in a much shorter time than if it all had to be looked up and remembered. People (that would be me) tend to do the easy things before the hard things. Make this one an easy thing!

Solution 2

Is it possible to acquire a LOR without having a face to face meet up/agreement?

Yes, of course. It happens all the time. People are not always geographically co-located with their letter writers.

If you are worried your professor might not remember who you are without a face-to-face meeting, then the major concern is whether he will be able to write a strong letter for someone he barely remembers without a visual reminder - not whether you have met to discuss the letter in person.

Solution 3

If you are within driving distance, I would suggest trying to meet the professor at their office hours and show up with a resume and a letter explaining your purpose for whatever you are planning on pursuing. By doing this, you can get in front of them and show urgency in the letter. This is a very common tale, and you are certainly not alone. Be appreciative of the LOR, but also be firm in the need for it. Offering coffee is always an option too.

Hope this helps.


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Updated on August 01, 2022


  • Fraïssé
    Fraïssé 17 days

    Of course it is not a good idea, preferably one would meet up with the professor to make the agreement.

    In my case, I've talked to the prof for a year, and then went off work for a year, now I need a recommendation letter. In September I emailed him my situation WITH the invitation for a meet up at his office. He told me he is willing to provide a reference, but did not address the meeting up issue.

    Now it is close to application deadline and I've yet to received the letter from him despite a few follow ups. I'm worried it is the reason is that I did not meet up with him so he might have forgotten who I was (which is understandable). I will attempt to email him once more with a more urgent tone, perhaps he will respond this time, but should I also invite him again to a meet up or is it too late?

    Any profs care to share their ideas?

    • user-2147482637
      user-2147482637 over 7 years
      does 'talked to the prof for a year' mean you have never met at all?
    • Bitwise
      Bitwise over 7 years
      It is even possible to do research and write a paper together without meeting face to face!
  • Bob Brown
    Bob Brown almost 6 years
    The complete text of what I ask of students is here:‌​tml