Letters of Recommendation Help

(Applications Advice, Letters of Recommendation . . . )
jsvaughn
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Letters of Recommendation Help

Postby jsvaughn » Sat Jul 23, 2011 3:46 pm

So I'm applying this fall and I none of my professors know me well enough for me to ask them for a LOR.

I go to large state school and never had any real reason to talk to them outside of class. I would feel like an ass kisser if I went to just chat with a prof with no real reason.

But here I am about to apply with no clue who to ask or how to ask and I know I made a mistake in waiting this long but oh well.

I have a class this fall with a prof who I had two years ago and I got an A- in her course.

Should I just meet with her in the beginning of the year and tell her what I need and tell her that I would like to meet with her every week or so in order for her to get to know me?

Or should I just let her know that she had me before and that I got an A- and then try to do really well in her class and ask for the LOR towards the end of the semester?

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Hawkeye Pierce
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Re: Letters of Recommendation Help

Postby Hawkeye Pierce » Sat Jul 23, 2011 4:00 pm

Neither. The former just sounds lame. And the latter may end up being too late for apps.

If you can, go in this summer and talk to her. If you can't, then just pop in a few times in the fall and chat, and then ask her for a letter of recommendation. Don't tell her you want her to get to know you. If you have any papers that you wrote for her in previous classes, give them to her as well.

You don't have to have stellar letters of recommendation. They just have to be okay and they will neither hurt nor help you.

jsvaughn
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Re: Letters of Recommendation Help

Postby jsvaughn » Sat Jul 23, 2011 7:59 pm

^Thanks for the reply.

Any ideas on what I should talk about with her when I go to see her during the summer? I'm not extremely introverted or anything but I'm the kind of person who talks with a purpose. So it might be hard for me to just strike up a friendly conversation without some pre-planned topics.

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Hawkeye Pierce
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Re: Letters of Recommendation Help

Postby Hawkeye Pierce » Sat Jul 23, 2011 8:04 pm

What were the classes about? What is she interested in?

Are you likewise interested in those same subjects? Maybe read some things online (or some journal articles) and come to her to discuss it/ask questions.

Are you in her class for next semester? You could go in and talk about what the class is going to be like as well.

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JaLeCa
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Re: Letters of Recommendation Help

Postby JaLeCa » Sat Jul 23, 2011 9:09 pm

Talk about your goals. They usually appreciate it when you come in with a clear plan. I had this issue and I just talked to my professors from the start of the semester, even if it was about BS. If they didn't mind e-mails, I made sure to e-mail them to ask them specific assignment questions (even though I didn't have any real questions).

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ElvisAaron
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Re: Letters of Recommendation Help

Postby ElvisAaron » Sat Jul 23, 2011 9:15 pm

Find a way to meet with her briefly and remind you you took a class of hers prior, then casually bring up the LOR like you just thought of it. Use her reaction to decide on the spot if you are asking for it now or just saying hey would you possibly be able to write one for me after this semester.
I had a similar situation and found it best to mention it in advance/early on in the course.

jsvaughn
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Re: Letters of Recommendation Help

Postby jsvaughn » Sun Jul 24, 2011 3:10 pm

Thanks for all the advice


Is there any way to see the letter before sending it out to schools?

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ElvisAaron
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Re: Letters of Recommendation Help

Postby ElvisAaron » Sun Jul 24, 2011 3:22 pm

Yeah....Ask them if you can see it.

MumofCad
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Re: Letters of Recommendation Help

Postby MumofCad » Sun Jul 24, 2011 5:49 pm

This is the worst part of applying for anything IMO. Well maybe just for me, because I went after undergrad through the Marshall/Rhodes process (mind you the Rhodes took 8!8! LORs!!), then the Master's process, then PhD program - all with scholarships that required LORs. Now that I am applying for law school, I have to go back to Profs that I had over 6 years ago and that are writing target LOR #4 or #5 for me - they've had to explain why I should go to the UK, why I should be funded for a PhD, why I should receive prestigious grants, and now why I should be admitted to law school. I def owe some major LORs when I'm in the position to write them. I promise to the laws of karma, I will never ever say no! So I feel your pain. I have often figured that Professors who once glowingly told me what a joy it was to have me in class, now probably regret uttering those words! Sigh.

So my advice is to seek out the Professors you've had good feedback from on work this summer. Most will have office hours or at least answer emails. Look back over your work from their class, and highlight their comments. Sometimes the comments are more important than the number grade (some profs will be harder graders after all, despite having respect for your work). Look at their profile and what they've been working on. Consider offering up as a volunteer or as a paid position to work for the professor over the summer. This will give her some idea of how deep your knowledge is and much more to write in a stellar LOR if your other will be weak. I was lucky and got offered 2 paid RA positions as an undergrad, and it has helped me that the result was contributing to 3 published books in my field. I also got what my adviser told me was the best LOR she had ever seen for my Marshall application. I don't know what all it said, but it did the trick. You can always spare some time for unpaid work, and who doesn't want unpaid help? You can get to know her and I bet you'll do even better in her class this fall and might end up with something great to add to your resume. Not to mention, learning something! Professors generally love an eager volunteer, who has a real commitment to the pursuit of knowledge.

Try and think of another professor you might be able to offer services for too. Maybe someone whose work YOU found intriguing and would like to get an inside track on.

Also, I have found that professors really appreciate hearing about how their hard work has affected their students. The way undergrad education is structured at most places these days, excelling as a teacher (not just a published researcher) isn't highly rewarding for them. Letting them know, it didn't go unnoticed sets you in the right foot to build a relationship. Its not a**-kissing IMO, its just plain old kindness to let someone know their appreciated.

Make sure when you ask, you have your work from their class prepared and an idea of what you'd like them to write about. Mine usually ask, but I always give them transcripts to remember the courses and point out little things that will fill in my application and cover things I couldn't squeeze into my PS. You will often know more about what the program/school you are applying for is seeking in a successful candidate than they will. Familiarize yourself, and give them direction so that as a whole, you give the admissions people a solid picture. I generally know what they will write academically, but I've asked professors to mention in the past how I formed a study-tutor group to help students that were struggling despite the fact that the professor graded on a strict curve and their better performance could lower my chances of success. I've never seen any of them, but I think they've been good based on my applications.

Another professor shocked me once with the fact that she knew I had proof-read, edited, and offered suggestions for half the students in the class because they were foreign-speaking and the writing office had a huge waitlist. She asked if she should include how impressed she was by my offer, which was without compensation. Sure! Why not! I had forgotten it and can't believe she remembered (or even knew) - all the better! So they might know more about you than you think, if you give them a chance to reconnect your name with your face. Put yourself out there and know we've all done it too.

While I'll never be sure, I think those things help add an angle on you that sets you apart from just being another really smart, clever person. If you can think about some personal touches that a professor might know about you, how you work well with others, are esteemed by your classmates, anything really that's not apparent from reading a transcript, resume, and is uncomfortable to even consider putting in a PS - can't hurt to remind them and in my experience, they will usually ask (though some won't and will just write what they want)

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Dany
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Re: Letters of Recommendation Help

Postby Dany » Sun Jul 24, 2011 6:18 pm

jsvaughn wrote:Any ideas on what I should talk about with her when I go to see her during the summer? I'm not extremely introverted or anything but I'm the kind of person who talks with a purpose. So it might be hard for me to just strike up a friendly conversation without some pre-planned topics.

Email her and ask if she would be willing to write you a letter of recommendation, and if so, if there is a convenient time for you to stop by her office. If she says yes (which she likely will) then go to her office with a packet including your transcript, resume, the LSAC form, any [good] work you have from her class, and anything else she asks for. I also included a typed letter thanking the professor for agreeing to help and included the date I needed it by.

When you meet with her, just talk about whatever. She'll probably ask what law schools you're considering, how you've been, etc. It's really not a big deal. Remember: this is part of a professor's job. They want to help you.

I would not go to her office and bullshit about her subject/the class then try to slip in asking for the LOR.




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