Unconventional LoRs

(Applications Advice, Letters of Recommendation . . . )
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Unconventional LoRs

Postby rgsm1987 » Fri Jul 20, 2012 1:21 pm

I'm deciding who to ask for LoRs given the fact that I sort of screwed myself in undergrad, and would appreciate any input on who of the following might be the best choice. In case background would be helpful, my undergrad performance was very poor (~3.0) due to undiagnosed ADHD and anxiety but I have a solid LSAT (173) so I'm planning to apply to the bottom half of the T-14.

And apologies in advance for the length/boring detail of this post; the fact that, almost undoubtedly, someone will plough through a rambling, borderline inarticulate mess like this to help a total stranger is pretty wonderful. Once I have a clue about this law school process, I promise to pay it forward.

1) An undergrad professor who taught an extremely small (3-4 person) Poli Sci tutorial about a subject I was passionate about. The professor, a notoriously tough grader, told me toward the end of the semester that I was one of the sharpest, most insightful students she's ever had, and I got A+s on all the papers I turned in. Easy decision, right? Here's the catch. I never turned in my final paper and ended up getting a B in the class. The same thing that happened to me every semester- end of the semester "holy shit I can't write 60 pages in one week" implosion- happened yet again, and I missed the paper deadline by a solid two weeks. At that point, the final grade was already in and I never turned in the paper because I was too embarrassed. I was thinking I could reach out to her (I've seen her a few times since and it's always been extremely friendly, though we never did discuss that grade) and have a frank discussion about what happened that semester. I plan on addressing that specific pattern behavior that earned me a decent number of F's in a GPA addendum, and I figured that it could be beneficial to have her corroborate both the "what happened", but also the fact that prior to my biannual freakout I was an excellent student. I would, of course, gauge her reaction to our conversation before asking, and if she didn't seem sympathetic I'd just pass on using her LoR. Or is this a really dumb, shoot myself in the foot idea?

2) A professor from a summer course I took after college who teaches at Harvard Law School. He taught a course on health access, which I'm passionate about, and liked me a lot at the time (ended up with an A). He could also speak to my passion for improving health access, which I plan to address in my personal statement. On the down side, I just don't know how well he'd remember me given that the class was two years ago and he clearly has a very large network of people he teaches/mentors.

3) A professor from a summer course I'm taking now. He's a department head at Georgetown, so again, though it's a summer class he's not some rando from Podunk Community College. It's a small class so he's had a chance to get to know me well as a student, and I do think he likes me a lot though we haven't had any graded work. He'd probably touch on my passion for/interest in public health as well, as I bring it up in class a fair amount. I think this would be a "safe" choice, though I worry if I choose him and professor 2 I'll have two post-grad recommendations and none from undergrad.

4) Undergrad professor, got a B from him in my first class (again, unsubmitted papers at the end of the semester) and then an A the next time I took a class with him (another 4 person tutorial). I helped organize a two week field study in South America for one of his classes that he actually joined us on, so I know him quite well and have stayed in touch. Not the best writer though.

5) Spanish teacher from 6-12th grade. I know a HS recommendation is a bit odd, so this would be for a 3rd/4th letter. He just knows me extremely well (we still meet up) and has really watched my intellectual/personal growth over the course of a long time. He's an excellent writer and would be effusive in his praise of both my intellect and character.

6) Founder of a small law firm I worked at two summers ago. Would write a great, if a bit generic, recommendation.

Thanks in advance for your help!

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Re: Unconventional LoRs

Postby honeybadger12 » Sat Jul 21, 2012 5:37 pm

personally i'd say pick between 1, 3, and 4. i'd talk to all three and see which two you think will most effectively communicate to the admissions committees that your gpa doesn't accurately reflect your intellectual ability. if one of them can speak to substantial improvement post-diagnosis that would probably be really good.

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Re: Unconventional LoRs

Postby MrSparkle » Sun Jul 22, 2012 2:40 pm

1 > 4 > 3, but maybe feel out #2.

Focus on who you think would write a GREAT letter, going above and beyond. #1 seems to be good for this, even though you didn't turn in the final (WTH how can you not turn in a final and only drop one letter grade? Wish my undergrad was like that...)

Just talk it through with #1 and get honest answers. I doubt she would lie to you and say "Yeah I'll write a good one for you" and slap you in the face.

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Re: Unconventional LoRs

Postby Verity » Sun Jul 22, 2012 2:58 pm

First, don't ever get a HS LoR.

Second, just try to get the best LoRs possible. We are strangers on the Internet. We have no idea which one of the people you listed will be able to write a better LoR for you. You need to judge that yourself and pick accordingly.

Third, best LoR means enthusiastic endorsement, but not boilerplate stuff. In other words, your recommender needs to know you well enough not to just write standard "S/he would be a great candidate for Law School X."

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