Importance of Academic Letter of Rec...

(Applications Advice, Letters of Recommendation . . . )
volcom_sig
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Importance of Academic Letter of Rec...

Postby volcom_sig » Wed Jun 23, 2010 12:40 am

I have a question about the importance of getting a letter of recommendation from an academic source if I've been out of school for a few years. I apologize for the length of this post, but I appreciate any advice anyone might have.

I know every school suggests (strongly) at least 1 recommendation from an academic source that can speak to your grades/learning ability/etc., but that if you have been out of school for awhile that letters from employers are fine. The unofficial cut-off I've seen/heard is around 5 years out of school.

I graduated from a medium-large state school in 2006 (I've been working for roughly 4 years) and didn't start seriously thinking about Law School until about 2-3 years ago. I didn't get any law school specific or even general letters of rec from professors before I graduated nor was I super passionate about any of my classes. I did OK, not great, in school and I worked 2 jobs, was in a fraternity and really didn't know what I wanted to do after graduation so I pretty much blended in with the crowd. I highly doubt if I go back to any of my professors (even ones that I had more than once), that they'd be able to write anything other than a really generic recommendation, if they'd even be willing to write one for me at all (I assume, maybe incorrectly, that since they have anywhere from 20 - 200+ students a semester, they must be used to having to write recommendations for students they don't know that well).

Since graduation, I've racked up a few good options for recommendations outside of academia and I was wondering if I can get away with 2-3 letters from employers. I'm also wondering if it would hurt me to just get a professor to write SOMETHING so that at I have that academic perspective...no matter how generic and unhelpful it may be.

Any thoughts/experience anyone may have to help me out would be appreciated.

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northwood
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Re: Importance of Academic Letter of Rec...

Postby northwood » Wed Jun 23, 2010 1:15 am

a generic or unhelpful letter is worse than not having a letter from a professor. Think about it, if a professor (who works in academia) can't say anything great about your studying habits, writing, participation, etc then its going to paint a negative picture about your potential as a student. I would stray away from anything that doesnt say you are the greatest student ever, and best student that the professor had ( or something along those lines) If you can get an employer to vouch for you, then go ahead, unless you're self employed, or work for a family run business. Make sure you know you are going to get a great letter before you use it. Good luck

Woozy
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Re: Importance of Academic Letter of Rec...

Postby Woozy » Wed Jun 23, 2010 4:29 pm

Northwood is sort of correct. However, many schools strongly recommend at least one academic reference, and not following such a simple instruction is bound to cause more problems than a lukewarm LOR will.

I was in a very similar situation - graduated in 06, didn't apply myself or form any bonds with profs during school. I called up a prof I had taken a few classes from. Explained who I was, what classes I had taken from him, why I was calling for a rec, etc. We chatted for a few minutes. He had absolutely no idea who I was, but most profs are accustomed to that situation, especially at large schools. I didn't see the letter he wrote, but I'm sure it was generic and no more than slightly praiseworthy. I don't think it held my cycle back.

I think you just need to suck it up and talk to one of your old profs.
Last edited by Woozy on Wed Jun 23, 2010 4:33 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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flyingpanda
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Re: Importance of Academic Letter of Rec...

Postby flyingpanda » Wed Jun 23, 2010 4:31 pm

Woozy wrote:Northwood is sort of correct. However, many schools absolutely require an academic reference, and not following such a simple instruction is bound to cause more problems than a lukewarm LOR will.

I was in a very similar situation - graduated in 06, didn't apply myself or form any bonds with profs during school. I called up a prof I had taken a few classes from. Explained who I was, what classes I had taken from him, why I was calling for a rec, etc. We chatted for a few minutes. He had absolutely no idea who I was, but most profs are accustomed to that situation, especially at large schools. I didn't see the letter he wrote, but I'm sure it was generic and no more than slightly praiseworthy. I don't think it held my cycle back.

I think you just need to suck it up and talk to one of your old profs.


I don't think there's any school that "absolutely require[s]" an academic reference. I didn't have any. It didn't hold my cycle back at all.

Woozy
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Re: Importance of Academic Letter of Rec...

Postby Woozy » Wed Jun 23, 2010 4:34 pm

flyingpanda wrote:
I don't think there's any school that "absolutely require[s]" an academic reference. I didn't have any. It didn't hold my cycle back at all.


OK, I edited my language. He may be fine either way. I still say he should have an academic letter.

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kaydish21
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Re: Importance of Academic Letter of Rec...

Postby kaydish21 » Wed Jun 23, 2010 4:35 pm

Woozy wrote:Northwood is sort of correct. However, many schools strongly recommend at least one academic reference, and not following such a simple instruction is bound to cause more problems than a lukewarm LOR will.

I was in a very similar situation - graduated in 06, didn't apply myself or form any bonds with profs during school. I called up a prof I had taken a few classes from. Explained who I was, what classes I had taken from him, why I was calling for a rec, etc. We chatted for a few minutes. He had absolutely no idea who I was, but most profs are accustomed to that situation, especially at large schools. I didn't see the letter he wrote, but I'm sure it was generic and no more than slightly praiseworthy. I don't think it held my cycle back.

I think you just need to suck it up and talk to one of your old profs.


I think this is pretty much the right idea. If you were 8-10 years out of school then you could probably get away with it, but 2006 is just 4 years, most schools will expect an academic letter of recommendation if not more than 1.

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flyingpanda
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Re: Importance of Academic Letter of Rec...

Postby flyingpanda » Wed Jun 23, 2010 4:39 pm

kaydish21 wrote:
Woozy wrote:Northwood is sort of correct. However, many schools strongly recommend at least one academic reference, and not following such a simple instruction is bound to cause more problems than a lukewarm LOR will.

I was in a very similar situation - graduated in 06, didn't apply myself or form any bonds with profs during school. I called up a prof I had taken a few classes from. Explained who I was, what classes I had taken from him, why I was calling for a rec, etc. We chatted for a few minutes. He had absolutely no idea who I was, but most profs are accustomed to that situation, especially at large schools. I didn't see the letter he wrote, but I'm sure it was generic and no more than slightly praiseworthy. I don't think it held my cycle back.

I think you just need to suck it up and talk to one of your old profs.


I think this is pretty much the right idea. If you were 8-10 years out of school then you could probably get away with it, but 2006 is just 4 years, most schools will expect an academic letter of recommendation if not more than 1.


I think the rule of the thumb is you should have one if you're 3 or less years out. Not 100% sure on this though. I honestly believe it will have minimal impact in any case. I think LSAT/GPA are king, with PS a distant 2nd with LOR trailing behind that. Unless of course, the LOR says some flat-out terrible things about you.

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kaydish21
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Re: Importance of Academic Letter of Rec...

Postby kaydish21 » Wed Jun 23, 2010 4:44 pm

flyingpanda wrote:
kaydish21 wrote:
Woozy wrote:Northwood is sort of correct. However, many schools strongly recommend at least one academic reference, and not following such a simple instruction is bound to cause more problems than a lukewarm LOR will.

I was in a very similar situation - graduated in 06, didn't apply myself or form any bonds with profs during school. I called up a prof I had taken a few classes from. Explained who I was, what classes I had taken from him, why I was calling for a rec, etc. We chatted for a few minutes. He had absolutely no idea who I was, but most profs are accustomed to that situation, especially at large schools. I didn't see the letter he wrote, but I'm sure it was generic and no more than slightly praiseworthy. I don't think it held my cycle back.

I think you just need to suck it up and talk to one of your old profs.


I think this is pretty much the right idea. If you were 8-10 years out of school then you could probably get away with it, but 2006 is just 4 years, most schools will expect an academic letter of recommendation if not more than 1.


I think the rule of the thumb is you should have one if you're 3 or less years out. Not 100% sure on this though. I honestly believe it will have minimal impact in any case. I think LSAT/GPA are king, with PS a distant 2nd with LOR trailing behind that. Unless of course, the LOR says some flat-out terrible things about you.


I completely agree with this, and honestly, it's probably a school by school thing how badly they want an academic rec and how many years out they will it doesn't matter.

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rx3r
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Re: Importance of Academic Letter of Rec...

Postby rx3r » Wed Jun 23, 2010 4:48 pm

I think some schools do REQUIRE a faculty rec.

http://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/admiss ... inal-2.pdf

Cornell Law School wrote:Faculty recommendations. You should give faculty recommendation
forms to two faculty members who can provide detailed
comments about your academic abilities compared with those of
other students who are applying to law schools. If you’re currently an
undergraduate, or you’ve graduated but have only been out of
school for two years or less, the forms must be completed by faculty
members who have taught you. If you’ve graduated and been out of
school for several years (two years or more), you can ask an employer
or other individual who knows your academic abilities to fill out one
of the faculty recommendation forms. Please bear in mind, however,
that we’re interested primarily in the recommender’s judgment
about your academic abilities and potential for success in the
legal profession. Prelaw-committee composite letters or letters
submitted separately from our form are acceptable.


Seems like Cornell will only let you replace ONE of two faculty recommendations if you've been out of school for 2+ years.

hsprophet
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Re: Importance of Academic Letter of Rec...

Postby hsprophet » Wed Jun 23, 2010 5:49 pm

Call the school(s) where you want to apply and ask them. They might just say "no problem, just send us ones from your employer," and you'll feel a lot better about it and the problem is solved.

I have been out of ungrad for 8 years and grad school for 6, and I had one letter for a co-worker (an equal position to mine) and a friend (who is an attorney and did some legal work for my business). Worked out fine for me.

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flyingpanda
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Re: Importance of Academic Letter of Rec...

Postby flyingpanda » Wed Jun 23, 2010 8:06 pm

rx3r wrote:I think some schools do REQUIRE a faculty rec.



I don't know about Cornell. I withdrew from them before I ever heard back. I doubt there's many schools that make such a big deal about it, or I would have seem some negative effects in my cycle.

crossingforHYS
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Re: Importance of Academic Letter of Rec...

Postby crossingforHYS » Wed Jun 23, 2010 8:16 pm

flyingpanda wrote:
rx3r wrote:I think some schools do REQUIRE a faculty rec.



I don't know about Cornell. I withdrew from them before I ever heard back. I doubt there's many schools that make such a big deal about it, or I would have seem some negative effects in my cycle.

were you out of school?

volcom_sig
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Re: Importance of Academic Letter of Rec...

Postby volcom_sig » Wed Jun 23, 2010 8:22 pm

Thanks for the tips guys.

I think I'll try to reach out to some old profs and try to set up a meeting with them over the summer and then submit the max # of recs for each school and just hope my "real world" references make up for what will probably be a so-so academic rec.

I don't imagine it will be a bad rec, just probably not much help.

Thanks again.

mhernton
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Re: Importance of Academic Letter of Rec...

Postby mhernton » Wed Jun 23, 2010 8:35 pm

dude,
Adcoms are looking for an outside source to gauge a body of work. They use letters from profs because the majority of people applying are in college. I've gone to business school, and got into Law School using recommendations from officers I worked with that had supervisor positions over me. I was also in the Marines before undergrad and my application to college was from officers I worked for. I don't really think it needs to be a prof. You just need to have a reason that it isn't a prof. Being out of school for 4+ years is a good reason, especially since you are a non-traditional candidate at this point.

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flyingpanda
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Re: Importance of Academic Letter of Rec...

Postby flyingpanda » Wed Jun 23, 2010 8:54 pm

crossingforHYS wrote:
flyingpanda wrote:
rx3r wrote:I think some schools do REQUIRE a faculty rec.



I don't know about Cornell. I withdrew from them before I ever heard back. I doubt there's many schools that make such a big deal about it, or I would have seem some negative effects in my cycle.

were you out of school?


I graduated spring, applied in the fall, so I was like 6 months out when I applied.




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