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Professors: When Should I Ask for a Recommendation?

I’m planning on applying to grad school and need two of my professors from last year to write me letters of recommendation. The deadline isn’t until April 1, so I have a while. I like to overthink things, so should I ask them:

  • After finals are over, so that they have them over break if they want to work on them
  • In January, so that they don’t feel pressured to do them over the holidays when they just want to enjoy spending time with their families but they also don’t have much grading yet
  • Later in the semester, once the craziness of students trying to get into their classes has passed
  • After I’ve taken the GRE, to avoid a situation where I do terribly and decide not to even bother applying because I won’t get in (this seems unlikely but I’m a worrier)

If it matters, final exams go through the end of next week and classes start up again on Jan 13. I’m not a current student. I didn’t have an amazing relationship with either of these professors (not bad either, just sort of average, though I did well in both classes) so I’d like to do whatever I can to make them more likely to say yes and write me a good recommendation.

So, professors of GT: When would you most like to have a former student ask for a recommendation?

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