Choosing LOR Writers

(Applications Advice, Letters of Recommendation . . . )
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Ialdabaoth
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Joined: Sat Jan 01, 2011 5:26 pm

Choosing LOR Writers

Postby Ialdabaoth » Tue Dec 20, 2011 12:56 am

I have 6+ options for recommendation writers and am having trouble narrowing it down to 3-4. I'll be applying next fall to most of the T14 with a ~3.95/4.0 and a 168 (possibly higher with an October 2012 retake, fingers crossed). However, I want to get all my letters together by the time I graduate this spring. My top semi-realistic choices are Berkeley and NYU, and my dream school is Stanford.

Obviously, it will be a little hard to offer advice without knowing my specific situation, but I appreciate any input on which letter writers "sound" like the best choices. Also, for schools that accept 4 letters, do you think it's worth submitting that many, or is it just overkill? I really think all of these will be solid, and many have written for me in the past.

Academic

1. Primary academic and undergrad thesis advisor; only had one class with this professor and that was sophomore year; she is very complimentary of my writing (thesis and related research) and extracurricular work around campus (seriously not trying to sound like a conceited jerk here)

2. Professor who I had for a first-year honors seminar, an honors intro class, and two upper-level classes--all in an area that is a large part of my undergrad curriculum (a self-designed program); probably the most familiar with my academic work in the traditional sense (class essays, participation, etc.) but not well connected to my extracurricular work

3. Professor I had for two classes--one senior-level, one grad--that are directly related to my career interest (energy and environmental policy); traveled with his class to present at a conference

Mixed

4. Professor who I had for a large first-year intro class, a large second-year class, and a senior-level/grad class; he's the advisor for a student group with which I've been active and serves on a student-faculty-staff committee with me; sort of has a rep as a mediocre letter writer but has asked me to let him know whenever I need one

5. Career Services staff member; co-taught a first year studies 101 class with her, so she probably has the most direct experience seeing me in a "leadership" role of sorts

6. Director of my honors program; worked with him on several projects and served on another student-faculty-staff committee, so he as also observed me in various leadership positions

JasonR
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Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2010 9:09 am

Re: Choosing LOR Writers

Postby JasonR » Tue Dec 20, 2011 3:23 am

Adcomms are far more interested in assessments of people who have directly observed your academic work than anything else. If the three professors will all right good things about you, those are the three to use. I wouldn't bother with the last three.

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Regina217
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Re: Choosing LOR Writers

Postby Regina217 » Tue Dec 20, 2011 6:02 am

I personally like 2, 3, 5 and 6 because they can address your leadership skills and academic strengths, and they sound like they have had enough experience with you to give specific, concrete examples of those things. There's nothing wrong with submitting 4 if they all have something valuable to share about you. Also, some schools allow you to submit a fifth letter when you're on the waitlist, so it's always good to have someone in mind in case that happens. Your problem is a good problem to have.

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Lily Pad
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Re: Choosing LOR Writers

Postby Lily Pad » Tue Dec 20, 2011 8:28 am

Most schools seem to strongly prefer letters from professors who are really familiar with your work if you are coming straight from undergrad. 1, 2, and 3 seem like they would be really strong choices. Just to give yourself options, I might ask 4 for a letter as well to use if you get waitlisted anywhere. I wouldn't send all four at once though- only 2-3 depending on the school, and save the rest for waitlists. It seems like adcomms don't like to be overloaded with several letters that will all say basically the same great things about you.

Good luck!

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Ialdabaoth
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Joined: Sat Jan 01, 2011 5:26 pm

Re: Choosing LOR Writers

Postby Ialdabaoth » Tue Dec 20, 2011 12:17 pm

Thanks for all the responses everyone! I really appreciate your feedback.




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