Dear Fellow Urchites,
I'm a senior graduating in June, and I've been trying my best to contribute to the forum from the limited knowledge I have from talking with professors. However, there are still plenty of things I'm trying to figure out myself as well.
So I'll be meeting with a professor I took a class with last Fall (to talk about research/grad school), and I'm wondering whether there are indirect/not-rude questions I can ask to get hints on whether he/she is willing to write me a strong letter.
By means of getting these hints, some advice I've seen in the past were:
(1) ask what range of schools I should be aiming for (if it's low, then this would mean that the prof isn't willing to vouch for the range I want to apply to)
(2) create opportunities for them to say no with easy-to-back-out excuses (ex. "It's completely okay if writing this letter is going to be difficult for you because you're facing a busy period", etc)
(3) directly ask them whether they would be willing to write a strong letter (which I would prefer to avoid, since some professors do not appreciate questions that are too blunt)
I was wondering whether anyone had anything to add or subtract to this advice. In my personal experience, most professors I requested a rec letter for usually always said yes, as long as I was a reasonably good student in class. However, what I couldn't figure out was whether the professor merely viewed me as "a good student" or as an "excellent student I would strongly recommend." This has sort of been a risk factor because the former case may result in a mediocre letter that would be much better to not receive at all to begin with.
I can post my profile if it ends up being relevant, but I'll leave it out for now.
Thanks for your insights in advance!