Letters of Recommendation -- How Important??

(Applications Advice, Letters of Recommendation . . . )
pdrez
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Letters of Recommendation -- How Important??

Postby pdrez » Thu Oct 07, 2010 4:59 pm

I have been out of school for 4 years and cannot for the life of me get a hold of any past professors, who have either moved on from the school or simply won't respond. Also, I have been primarily acting since I graduated, so I am lacking in "normal job" references. I had a job as Media Planner in NY, but I cannot get a letter of recommendation from my supervisor there, who has respectfully declined due to being too busy.

My father is a lawyer and he has two co-workers that have been friends of the family for years and who have said they will write a LOR on my behalf. Will that suffice? It is not a professional relationship, nor an academic one. But I find myself literally out of options.

How important are LORs in the application process? More or less important than GPA, LSAT and Personal Statement? Can they make or break an application? I am fearing that my lack of solid LORs could derail my plans for law school.

Any advice or words of wisdom?

Thanks!

acrossthelake
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Re: Letters of Recommendation -- How Important??

Postby acrossthelake » Thu Oct 07, 2010 5:03 pm

pdrez wrote:I have been out of school for 4 years and cannot for the life of me get a hold of any past professors, who have either moved on from the school or simply won't respond. Also, I have been primarily acting since I graduated, so I am lacking in "normal job" references. I had a job as Media Planner in NY, but I cannot get a letter of recommendation from my supervisor there, who has respectfully declined due to being too busy.

My father is a lawyer and he has two co-workers that have been friends of the family for years and who have said they will write a LOR on my behalf. Will that suffice? It is not a professional relationship, nor an academic one. But I find myself literally out of options.

How important are LORs in the application process? More or less important than GPA, LSAT and Personal Statement? Can they make or break an application? I am fearing that my lack of solid LORs could derail my plans for law school.

Any advice or words of wisdom?

Thanks!


Depends on the school, depends on your numbers. At the top, I think it will hurt, esp at Yale.

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tea_drinker
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Re: Letters of Recommendation -- How Important??

Postby tea_drinker » Thu Oct 07, 2010 5:20 pm

pdrez wrote: Also, I have been primarily acting since I graduated, so I am lacking in "normal job" references.

My father is a lawyer and he has two co-workers that have been friends of the family for years and who have said they will write a LOR on my behalf. Will that suffice? It is not a professional relationship, nor an academic one. But I find myself literally out of options.


I think LORs, while may not be as important as LSAT or GPA, are important. I think you should ask your director or whoever your supervisor is at your acting job to write you one (maybe you can give them some talking points). IMO, acting is a job, and is not more or less qualified than any other jobs out there.

I would not go with the family's friend yet, but certainly, that can be your last resort.

Good luck!

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im_blue
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Re: Letters of Recommendation -- How Important??

Postby im_blue » Thu Oct 07, 2010 5:34 pm

Couple options here:
1) Get a LOR from your acting job supervisor.
2) Tell your Media Planner supervisor that you'll write your own LOR and that he can just sign it.

sarahh
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Re: Letters of Recommendation -- How Important??

Postby sarahh » Thu Oct 07, 2010 5:50 pm

Can you track down the professors who moved on? Maybe they are at other schools. For the ones that did not respond, did you just e-mail them? If so, try to call them. Also, you can call their asisstant if they have one.

It is not a good idea to have references from family friends. If you cannot get academic ones, it is better to get job-related ones. Best would be from someone who supervised you in some way, even if the person is not a traditional boss. If not, you can ask colleagues. Also, do you do any volunteer activities? If so, you could ask the supervisor there for one.
Last edited by sarahh on Thu Oct 07, 2010 6:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Dany
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Re: Letters of Recommendation -- How Important??

Postby Dany » Thu Oct 07, 2010 5:52 pm

im_blue wrote:2) Tell your Media Planner supervisor that you'll write your own LOR and that he can just sign it.

This is a terrible, terrible idea.

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im_blue
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Re: Letters of Recommendation -- How Important??

Postby im_blue » Thu Oct 07, 2010 10:01 pm

eskimo wrote:
im_blue wrote:2) Tell your Media Planner supervisor that you'll write your own LOR and that he can just sign it.

This is a terrible, terrible idea.

In general yes, but considering the alternative of a family friend, I'd say OP has no other choice here.

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zworykin
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Re: Letters of Recommendation -- How Important??

Postby zworykin » Thu Oct 07, 2010 10:17 pm

im_blue wrote:
eskimo wrote:
im_blue wrote:2) Tell your Media Planner supervisor that you'll write your own LOR and that he can just sign it.

This is a terrible, terrible idea.

In general yes, but considering the alternative of a family friend, I'd say OP has no other choice here.


No. Writing your own letter is not the answer. I would take a letter from my next-door neighbor's cat before writing my own letter. I would recommend the same to anyone else in the same situation, too.

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Dany
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Re: Letters of Recommendation -- How Important??

Postby Dany » Thu Oct 07, 2010 10:24 pm

It's a very bad idea even when the recommender tells you to write it. It would be an incredibly worse idea to suggest it yourself.

haveaniceday111
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Re: Letters of Recommendation -- How Important??

Postby haveaniceday111 » Fri Oct 08, 2010 2:33 am

eskimo wrote:It's a very bad idea even when the recommender tells you to write it. It would be an incredibly worse idea to suggest it yourself.



This was my gut reaction also.

To my surprise, however, some people have told me that this is actually a very common practice.

I'm currently volunteering abroad, and I've asked a government official to write one for me. His first response was that his "policy" was to have people write it and then he would sign it. I told him that I was uncomfortable with that, and he just asked me for some bullet points, and he wrote it himself. In the end, I'm not sure if I will actually assign his letter to any of the schools, even though it details the projects I've worked on within his purview.
I've talked to friends about this, and most people told me that it's acceptable and common. But for me, there's a weird feeling in my gut that its unethical and simply destroys any integrity of a LOR.

For OP - most schools are looking for your ability to succeed in a legal setting. If you sit down with your managers/supervisors, family friends and give them a few bullet points, it might suffice. At the same time, there are ethical considerations, such as the potential of...umm..what's the word I'm looking for...lying? Yeah, that's it.

If you want to write your own, it might be common practice and it MIGHT be acceptable. For me, my gut says that even if it is common, it's wrong. Maybe others can weight in on this?

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strawberryfanta
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Re: Letters of Recommendation -- How Important??

Postby strawberryfanta » Fri Oct 08, 2010 4:21 am

Do NOT write it yourself.

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Dany
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Re: Letters of Recommendation -- How Important??

Postby Dany » Fri Oct 08, 2010 8:26 am

I'm not even talking about ethics.

First, if the supervisor was okay with OP writing it himself, the SUPERVISOR would have suggested it.

Second, I can't think of a worse thing to say to someone than, "Oh, it's cool that you're busy - I'll just write it myself! Then you can sign it."

Third, every time this comes up in a conversation with admissions deans, the reply is the same: they can tell you wrote it yourself. They read thousands of these every year, and if you think they won't notice that it was written by the same person who they have plenty of writing samples from, you're crazy.

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ahduth
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Re: Letters of Recommendation -- How Important??

Postby ahduth » Fri Oct 08, 2010 9:52 am

haveaniceday111 wrote:I told him that I was uncomfortable with that, and he just asked me for some bullet points, and he wrote it himself. In the end, I'm not sure if I will actually assign his letter to any of the schools, even though it details the projects I've worked on within his purview.
I've talked to friends about this, and most people told me that it's acceptable and common. But for me, there's a weird feeling in my gut that its unethical and simply destroys any integrity of a LOR.


I'll disagree here, but only on the bullet points portion. Particularly for someone who does not work in academia, they may have no clear concept of what would be good to present in a letter of recommendation. If they view you positively and think you would do well in law school, it's only logical that they'd ask for that type of help writing it. I'm getting a reference from a supervisor with whom I've discusses law school quite a bit, and he thinks I'll do great. That being said, a lot of the letters he writes include things like, "this person was a wizard dealing with complicated report coding issues in treasury that were holding up vendor payments from accounts payable." He wants to know what qualities the law schools actually care about, so he can know to write about those, not random crap that has no bearing on how well someone will do in school.

That being said, the fact they didn't want to write it up front probably doesn't bode well. Did you get a chance to look at it?

pdrez
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Re: Letters of Recommendation -- How Important??

Postby pdrez » Fri Oct 08, 2010 10:04 am

My agent that has represented me for two years has now signed on to write one for me, but because of her hectic schedule she asks that I outline how I would like to be portrayed in the letter, as she has never written one for a law school.

I'm in a tough spot....but I'll figure it all out. I have heard that this is extremely common and not just in graduate school recommendations but workplace ones as well. Think about it, would you want to work on a letter of recommendation for 3-4 weeks (as this website dictates you should give the letter-writer) when you have so many other things to do?

Thanks to everyone for the help! Good discussion.

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Dany
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Re: Letters of Recommendation -- How Important??

Postby Dany » Fri Oct 08, 2010 10:11 am

That sounds great! I recommend reading through the interviews on here and other sites like Admissions Dean to find specific examples of what schools want to see so you can include those in your outline. That should really help your recommender out!

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plenipotentiary
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Re: Letters of Recommendation -- How Important??

Postby plenipotentiary » Fri Oct 08, 2010 10:32 am

You haven't mentioned your numbers/where you're applying. I think the importance of LORs varies depending on the school (and how much of a reach it is for you).

pdrez
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Re: Letters of Recommendation -- How Important??

Postby pdrez » Fri Oct 08, 2010 10:48 am

Sorry, should have added my numbers much earlier.

GPA: 3.72 (at Univ of Texas)
LSAT: 162
URM (3/4 Mexican)

Top schools:

Texas, Cornell, UCLA, USC, SMU, UC-Davis, Loyola (LA), Fordham, American

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plenipotentiary
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Re: Letters of Recommendation -- How Important??

Postby plenipotentiary » Fri Oct 08, 2010 10:56 am

pdrez wrote:Sorry, should have added my numbers much earlier.

GPA: 3.72 (at Univ of Texas)
LSAT: 162
URM (3/4 Mexican)

Top schools:

Texas, Cornell, UCLA, USC, SMU, UC-Davis, Loyola (LA), Fordham, American


Try harder to reach old professors, and apply to more/higher-ranked schools. I don't think there's any reason for you to have to go to a school like American. Have you only e-mailed old professors, or have you called their departments?

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Dany
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Re: Letters of Recommendation -- How Important??

Postby Dany » Fri Oct 08, 2010 10:57 am

pdrez wrote:Sorry, should have added my numbers much earlier.

GPA: 3.72 (at Univ of Texas)
LSAT: 162
URM (3/4 Mexican)

Top schools:

Texas, Cornell, UCLA, USC, SMU, UC-Davis, Loyola (LA), Fordham, American

Why aren't you applying to more of the bottom T14...? Why go to American when you can go to Georgetown?

Edit: after looking at some LSN graphs, you need to aim higher...

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plenipotentiary
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Re: Letters of Recommendation -- How Important??

Postby plenipotentiary » Fri Oct 08, 2010 11:04 am

eskimo wrote:
pdrez wrote:Sorry, should have added my numbers much earlier.

GPA: 3.72 (at Univ of Texas)
LSAT: 162
URM (3/4 Mexican)

Top schools:

Texas, Cornell, UCLA, USC, SMU, UC-Davis, Loyola (LA), Fordham, American

Why aren't you applying to more of the bottom T14...? Why go to American when you can go to Georgetown?

Edit: after looking at some LSN graphs, you need to aim higher...


Agree so much. But for T14 schools, I think having at least one academic reference becomes a priority. In her place, I might sit out this cycle, take one class at a cheap state school, work my ass off, and then ask for a recommendation.

pdrez
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Re: Letters of Recommendation -- How Important??

Postby pdrez » Fri Oct 08, 2010 11:18 am

I have really only tried to email a couple old professors whom I actually remember. But to be honest I lacked a real personal relationship with these professors. So even if they agreed to write one on my behalf it would more than likely only be a form letter showing little to no knowledge about me as a person.

Would simply say he got an A in my class, etc.

Is that even worth it over people that actually know me?

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plenipotentiary
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Re: Letters of Recommendation -- How Important??

Postby plenipotentiary » Fri Oct 08, 2010 11:22 am

pdrez wrote:I have really only tried to email a couple old professors whom I actually remember. But to be honest I lacked a real personal relationship with these professors. So even if they agreed to write one on my behalf it would more than likely only be a form letter showing little to no knowledge about me as a person.

Would simply say he got an A in my class, etc.

Is that even worth it over people that actually know me?


Yeah, it's worth it. We went over (and over) it in this thread: viewtopic.php?f=2&t=132067

Hunt down a prof, convince them to write you a letter. If you can, send them one of the (A) papers you wrote for them, and a copy of your transcript/resume, and a brief synopsis of your goals.

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Dany
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Re: Letters of Recommendation -- How Important??

Postby Dany » Fri Oct 08, 2010 11:22 am

pdrez wrote:I have really only tried to email a couple old professors whom I actually remember. But to be honest I lacked a real personal relationship with these professors. So even if they agreed to write one on my behalf it would more than likely only be a form letter showing little to no knowledge about me as a person.

Would simply say he got an A in my class, etc.

Is that even worth it over people that actually know me?

Are you in the same area as them? Email them, dig up any old work from classes, and set up a meeting. Be personable, and they will write you an acceptable letter. While not the best possible scenario, it should suffice.




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