Is an old LOR a bad thing?

(Applications Advice, Letters of Recommendation . . . )
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ScottRiqui
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Is an old LOR a bad thing?

Postby ScottRiqui » Sun Dec 05, 2010 11:13 am

I'm a couple of years away from applying, but I'd like to include an LOR from one of my graduate professors. The course I took from him was in the fall of 2008, but it dealt with very complex concepts (Fourier Optics), and the professor was impressed with my insight and communications skills. He pulled me into his office after the course was over and told me he'd love to give me an LOR. Although he was probably thinking of an LOR for a Physics Ph.D program, I'm sure he'd be willing to write one to a law school as well.

If I have him write one now and send it to LSAC, will it look weird that it will be three years old when I apply, and will refer to a course that will be five years in the past? I could wait until I'm ready to apply and ask him then, but I don't know how many specific details he'll remember about me five years after I was in his class.

Lastly, does it matter at all if the recommender is a Ph.D grad from the school you're applying to?

In a similar vein, my current commanding officer will be transferring out of the squadron in June. Should I get an LOR from him now and just put it on file?

Thanks,
Scott

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txadv11
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Re: Is an old LOR a bad thing?

Postby txadv11 » Sun Dec 05, 2010 11:52 am

Get the commanding officer's letter (as long as it will be well written)
I think it is worth getting the physics letter now and making the decision whether/which letter to send at a later date.

I think the general consensus is if you are in or recently out of undergrad, academic letters are usually best.
If you are out of undergrad for a while, then often a strong boss or supervisor's letter is good.

Although I have heard military letters can be excellent and go a long way.

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ScottRiqui
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Re: Is an old LOR a bad thing?

Postby ScottRiqui » Sun Dec 05, 2010 12:50 pm

Thanks for the reply. Here's a little more detail and my thoughts so far:

Undergrad awarded in 1994
Graduate degree awarded in 2009 (while I was on active duty)
Retiring from the Navy and applying to LS in 2014

Between 2009 and 2014, let's call my last two Navy commands "TACRON" and "NIOC". I'm at TACRON now and will be transferring to NIOC next year.


Here are who I'm thinking about for LORs. The bracketed dates are when I worked with/knew them:

1) The aforementioned Fourier Optics instructor [2008-2009], since I know he'll write a great LOR and he got his Ph.D at the school I'd most like to attend.

2) My graduate thesis advisor [2007-2009], since she's in the best position of all to comment on the types of things that will interest/impress law schools the most (hard work, academic excellence, writing/communication ability, etcetera.)

3) My TACRON Commanding Officer [2009-2011], since it would be one of the most-recent LORs.

4) My Commanding Officer at NIOC (whom I obviously haven't even met yet) [2011-2014], since it would be the most recent of all.

I know that most schools only want two or three LORs at most, so which of these do you think would be best-received? Right now, I'm thinking about my graduate thesis advisor and my NIOC CO, and possibly adding my Fourier Optics instructor for my application to the school where he graduated.

The only other thing worth mentioning is that I've been the squadron Legal Officer while I've been at TACRON, but don't know if I'll have that collateral duty at NIOC as well. Think of a Legal Officer as "JAG lite" - it's definitely experience in the legal field, but it's mostly prosecuting minor infractions, performing administrative discharges, and advising the CO on points of law (i.e. "Hey Scott, can I do this and not get fired?")

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ShuckingNotJiving
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Re: Is an old LOR a bad thing?

Postby ShuckingNotJiving » Sun Dec 05, 2010 1:00 pm

definitely use the instructor. the age of the LOR does not matter. it's to be expected for applicants who are some years out of undergrad. as a matter fact, many ug institutions have services where you can keep letters on file for several years.

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ScottRiqui
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Re: Is an old LOR a bad thing?

Postby ScottRiqui » Sun Dec 05, 2010 1:16 pm

Thanks - fortunately, he's one of my graduate instructors. My undergrad degree will be 20 years old when I apply, and there's really no one from my UG days that I could realistically expect to remember me after that long anyway.

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ahduth
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Re: Is an old LOR a bad thing?

Postby ahduth » Sun Dec 05, 2010 4:23 pm

ShuckingNotJiving wrote:definitely use the instructor. the age of the LOR does not matter. it's to be expected for applicants who are some years out of undergrad. as a matter fact, many ug institutions have services where you can keep letters on file for several years.


I agree that instructor should most definitely be used if he actively asked to write an LOR for you. Is he the type of guy you'd keep in touch with at all? Because I think the currency of the letter really does matter, actually.

Think about it this way. I send you a letter I wrote 2 years ago. It's all still factually accurate and relevant. Does it have the same force as something written last week?

Edit: To your concerns about him recalling specifics, maybe ask him to write it now, and then refresh it later when it's time to apply? Really depends on your relationship with him.

Additional edit (lol): I think it does help if they were a PhD at the school you are applying to, depending on how long ago it was. A comment to the effect that you compare favorable with other graduate students he dealt with while he was at the institution can add force and personality to the letter.




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