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Risky Evaluation

Posted: Wed May 01, 2013 6:33 pm
by glebe
I have one letter of recommendation in the bag, and I am looking for an evaluation before I apply in November. My best bet at this point seems to be a professor who knew me quite well, and whose class I performed quite well in, but whom I pissed off somewhat in the middle of the semester.

I made the mistake of addressing this professor by their first name in an email, which provoked an indignant response. For the rest of the semester, however, it was never brought up again and I did quite well at the end of the year. I was one of the more enthusiastic participants in the class, and my homework and test grades reflected a strong understanding of the subject matter.

Maybe I'm worrying too much about this, but I feel concerned that the professor might give me a negative evaluation if she is still upset about it. I'm weighing the possibility of addressing the issue head on in my first email, apologizing, and explaining that I understand why it was wrong.

What should I do?

Re: Risky Evaluation

Posted: Wed May 01, 2013 6:49 pm
by acs507
glebe wrote:I have one letter of recommendation in the bag, and I am looking for an evaluation before I apply in November. My best bet at this point seems to be a professor who knew me quite well, and whose class I performed quite well in, but whom I pissed off somewhat in the middle of the semester.

I made the mistake of addressing this professor by their first name in an email, which provoked an indignant response. For the rest of the semester, however, it was never brought up again and I did quite well at the end of the year. I was one of the more enthusiastic participants in the class, and my homework and test grades reflected a strong understanding of the subject matter.

Maybe I'm worrying too much about this, but I feel concerned that the professor might give me a negative evaluation if she is still upset about it. I'm weighing the possibility of addressing the issue head on in my first email, apologizing, and explaining that I understand why it was wrong.

What should I do?


If it were me, I would not bring up the issue again as it is likely that the professor has moved on and barely remembers at this point. I think it would be difficult for anyone to tell you how your relationship changed with the professor. If he seemed to have moved on after the incident and you did well in the class then I doubt he would write a negative recommendation.

Just a personal opinion.

Re: Risky Evaluation

Posted: Wed May 01, 2013 6:56 pm
by kferden
I would assume that professors have dealt with much more infuriating issues than being called by their first name.

That being said, if the issue was never brought up again I wouldn't think it would be something that you need to worry about.

Also, most professors know how big of a deal the application process is for students/grads looking toward post-graduate studies. Unless you had any other red flags making you think that this particular prof. was a spiteful, grudge-holding, unprofessional, and immature individual, I'm thinking you're probably alright not to address it.

Re: Risky Evaluation

Posted: Wed May 01, 2013 7:13 pm
by Tekrul
If he agreed to write a letter of recommendation for you, it's an implied assurance that he feels comfortable writing you a strong commendation.

Edit: misread OP. So when you sent the original e-mail breaking etiquette, and then received an indignant response, did you e-mail back an apology? I certainly hope you did because that would be an awkward place to leave things.

Re: Risky Evaluation

Posted: Wed May 01, 2013 7:24 pm
by glebe
Tekrul wrote:If he agreed to write a letter of recommendation for you, it's an implied assurance that he feels comfortable writing you a strong commendation.

Edit: misread OP. So when you sent the original e-mail breaking etiquette, and then received an indignant response, did you e-mail back an apology? I certainly hope you did because that would be an awkward place to leave things.


No, I never addressed it or apologized, which naturally I regret now. I participated in the class fairly often after that though, and even sent a few emails to the professor as well.

Re: Risky Evaluation

Posted: Wed May 01, 2013 7:35 pm
by Balthy
Tekrul wrote:If he agreed to write a letter of recommendation for you, it's an implied assurance that he feels comfortable writing you a strong commendation.

Edit: misread OP. So when you sent the original e-mail breaking etiquette, and then received an indignant response, did you e-mail back an apology? I certainly hope you did because that would be an awkward place to leave things.



This isn't true. My philosophy prof told me he once wrote a LOR stating how good the guy's handwriting is, and that's it. He wasn't joking.

Re: Risky Evaluation

Posted: Wed May 01, 2013 7:37 pm
by Tekrul
My opinion - go to the professor and ask if he/she would be willing to write you a strong letter of recommendation. Even though the act of asking implies it already, just slip that word in there. If your professor agrees, you can assume that a strong recommendation is exactly what you'll receive. Otherwise, they'll deny your request.

It is hard to imagine the type of person who would agree to write you a strong LOR and then disparage you in the letter. The LOR is just about your intellectual merits anyway. A character LOR is generally viewed as a less important and less relevant type of letter as opposed to an academic, substantive LOR. Even if your professor slips in some rude anecdote, it will likely not matter much.

Edit: that philosophy professor committed an egregious disservice to the student and the occurrence is atypical of reasonable individuals.

Edit 2: that philosophy professor also probably lost clout with the many admissions officers from the schools LSAC sent that ridiculous LOR to.

Re: Risky Evaluation

Posted: Wed May 01, 2013 7:40 pm
by A. Nony Mouse
Just ask. If you did good work, that's what really matters. If the prof really feels they can't write a positive LOR they'll decline to write (well, they should, rather than write about handwriting!). They'll be able to separate the name thing from your work (unless you have reason to think they'll see the name thing as a symptom of a deeper problem. But if it's an isolated thing and everything else has been good, it won't matter).

Re: Risky Evaluation

Posted: Wed May 01, 2013 7:41 pm
by Lavitz
glebe wrote:I have one letter of recommendation in the bag, and I am looking for an evaluation

Wait, you mean you're only going to submit one LoR and you're trying to use this professor for LSAC's new evaluation thing?

I believe most schools require two letters of recommendation and don't really care about the evaluations at all. So you should be asking for a second letter, not an evaluation.

Yes, you should have apologized, but you shouldn't bring it back up after this much time has elapsed. But if possible, you should also be making this request in person like Tekrul said--not over e-mail.

Re: Risky Evaluation

Posted: Wed May 01, 2013 7:46 pm
by glebe
Tekrul wrote:My opinion - go to the professor and ask if he/she would be willing to write you a strong letter of recommendation. Even though the act of asking implies it already, just slip that word in there. If your professor agrees, you can assume that a strong recommendation is exactly what you'll receive. Otherwise, they'll deny your request.

It is hard to imagine the type of person who would agree to write you a strong LOR and then disparage you in the letter. The LOR is just about your intellectual merits anyway. A character LOR is generally viewed as a less important and less relevant type of letter as opposed to an academic, substantive LOR. Even if your professor slips in some rude anecdote, it will likely not matter much.

Edit: that philosophy professor committed an egregious disservice to the student and the occurrence is atypical of reasonable individuals.


Yeah, I don't want to be the victim of an atypical individual. I think your "strong recommendation" advice is most appealing, and most people are suggesting not to bring up the previous etiquette issue so I am leaning towards that now.

Re: Risky Evaluation

Posted: Wed May 01, 2013 8:49 pm
by jackattack17
Yes, ask the prof if he/she would be willing to write a "strong" letter. Do this in-person, after addressing the professor as DR. so-and-so. And don't mention your earlier gaffe, just be as humble and appreciative as you can without obviously overdoing it.

And, FWIW, your letters of rec mean very, very little to adcomms. If you're this stressed about it, just ask another prof who you haven't pissed off and you're absolutely sure would write you a decent one.

Re: Risky Evaluation

Posted: Wed May 01, 2013 9:45 pm
by mephistopheles
you used a professor's first name?!

Re: Risky Evaluation

Posted: Wed May 01, 2013 10:58 pm
by howlery
Not to hijack, but is asking for a "strong" LOR TCR? Or only in situations where you aren't quite sure such as OP's?

Also isn't it better to ask over email? It spares the professor from having to deal with the awkwardness of turning down a student in person.

Re: Risky Evaluation

Posted: Wed May 01, 2013 11:07 pm
by Tekrul
I have always preferred a personal touch to my dealings with people I ask favors of / people I wish to see again / people I wish to maintain a relationship with. My presence and social skills have been my strongest suit especially since my numbers have been lacking my entire life.

I prepared a manila envelope for each of the 3 professors I solicited LOR's from. In each envelope was a copy of my best work from the class with their original notes (I saved a copy for myself), a cover letter explaining to them why I was going to law school, a list of the schools I was applying to, the LSAC form they needed to fill out with "I waive my right to see..." checked, a simple list of directions and reminders (how to submit the form online, please be sure to affix your signature to the bottom), a request for special recommendation to my top choice school, and a thank you note. I wrote them an e-mail thank you when LSAC informed me their LOR had been received and I will write them a physical thank you note when I have completed my cycle with the results they helped me achieve.

As for asking for a "strong" LOR - I believe the best way to approach this is not to simply ask your professor for a LOR, but if he/she would be comfortable writing you a strong LOR. This is a qualitatively different question. While it may be unnecessary (each one of my professor's said something along the lines of "it is understood that I will write you a strong LOR if I was to write you one at all") I figure it's an assuring touch for your own self-security.

Re: Risky Evaluation

Posted: Wed May 01, 2013 11:29 pm
by cinephile
mephistopheles wrote:you used a professor's first name?!


Don't most professors prefer this? It wasn't until I got to law school that I felt like I regressed back to being a high school student.

Re: Risky Evaluation

Posted: Wed May 01, 2013 11:43 pm
by A. Nony Mouse
cinephile wrote:
mephistopheles wrote:you used a professor's first name?!


Don't most professors prefer this? It wasn't until I got to law school that I felt like I regressed back to being a high school student.

Totally depends on the school. I taught at one school where every single person who worked there went by their first name, including the chancellor. I taught at another where even faculty addressed the president as "President Lastname" when talking to him. Most places are somewhere in the middle, but it's not usually good to assume you can use a prof's first name.

Re: Risky Evaluation

Posted: Fri May 03, 2013 4:43 pm
by bp shinners
Lavitz wrote:
glebe wrote:I have one letter of recommendation in the bag, and I am looking for an evaluation

Wait, you mean you're only going to submit one LoR and you're trying to use this professor for LSAC's new evaluation thing?

I believe most schools require two letters of recommendation and don't really care about the evaluations at all. So you should be asking for a second letter, not an evaluation.


This is the relevant question. Evaluations are, essentially, useless. You need another LoR.

Re: Risky Evaluation

Posted: Fri May 03, 2013 5:22 pm
by glebe
bp shinners wrote:
Lavitz wrote:
glebe wrote:I have one letter of recommendation in the bag, and I am looking for an evaluation

Wait, you mean you're only going to submit one LoR and you're trying to use this professor for LSAC's new evaluation thing?

I believe most schools require two letters of recommendation and don't really care about the evaluations at all. So you should be asking for a second letter, not an evaluation.


This is the relevant question. Evaluations are, essentially, useless. You need another LoR.


Roger. I've been talked out of the evaluation. Thanks for the advice.

Re: Risky Evaluation

Posted: Fri May 03, 2013 5:39 pm
by ManOfTheMinute
glebe wrote:
Tekrul wrote:If he agreed to write a letter of recommendation for you, it's an implied assurance that he feels comfortable writing you a strong commendation.

Edit: misread OP. So when you sent the original e-mail breaking etiquette, and then received an indignant response, did you e-mail back an apology? I certainly hope you did because that would be an awkward place to leave things.


No, I never addressed it or apologized, which naturally I regret now. I participated in the class fairly often after that though, and even sent a few emails to the professor as well.


Given this, I definitely would not ask him... shows a lack of maturity, etc. that he probably didn't forget

Re: Risky Evaluation

Posted: Sat May 04, 2013 12:32 pm
by Ti Malice
Unless you're targeting Y, S, or B, your LORs aren't going to matter much -- unless they're negative. Better to find a lower-risk recommender.

Re: Risky Evaluation

Posted: Sun May 05, 2013 4:35 pm
by El Principe
You got scolded for addressing your professor by the first name...? I mean, now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever referred to any of my professors by their first names, but it would seem as if that would be something that someone would merely point out to correct rather than send an indignant response. Seems like an ***hole if you ask me.

Re: Risky Evaluation

Posted: Sun May 05, 2013 6:06 pm
by A. Nony Mouse
El Principe wrote:You got scolded for addressing your professor by the first name...? I mean, now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever referred to any of my professors by their first names, but it would seem as if that would be something that someone would merely point out to correct rather than send an indignant response. Seems like an ***hole if you ask me.

Honestly, no. It depends entirely on the context, but there are schools where it is not done to call a prof by their first name. And there are people who take this very seriously (which, okay, a little snobby, but again, it depends on context). The OP says "indignant response," but we don't know what this means exactly. Finally, the OP said "she," and it is incredibly common for students to default to calling male profs "Dr. So-and-So" or "Prof. So-and-So," and calling women profs "Ms. Whatever," or, even better, "Mrs. Whatever." INCREDIBLY common. So calling a female prof by her first name without invitation to do so can come across as incredibly rude.

Re: Risky Evaluation

Posted: Sun May 05, 2013 10:29 pm
by glebe
ManOfTheMinute wrote:
glebe wrote:
Tekrul wrote:If he agreed to write a letter of recommendation for you, it's an implied assurance that he feels comfortable writing you a strong commendation.

Edit: misread OP. So when you sent the original e-mail breaking etiquette, and then received an indignant response, did you e-mail back an apology? I certainly hope you did because that would be an awkward place to leave things.


No, I never addressed it or apologized, which naturally I regret now. I participated in the class fairly often after that though, and even sent a few emails to the professor as well.


Given this, I definitely would not ask him... shows a lack of maturity, etc. that he probably didn't forget


This response is disheartening. My other options are a class that I didn't do very well in (B-), though I was an active participant in the class, and an online class that was writing intensive which I did well in.

I am still considering asking the original professor for a helpful or strong LoR, then moving on to plan B if they decline.

Re: Risky Evaluation

Posted: Sun May 05, 2013 11:07 pm
by Tekrul
Yea, stick with the plan of asking for a strong LOR.

If it is the case that he is still sore about the incident, walk away knowing it is he and not you that has the problem.

Being slighted from being referred to by one's first name is petty and low-class. Hanging onto it even more so. And refusing to assist a student due to it is near absurdity. You called him by his first name, you didn't cuckold him. It will take a special kind of self-inflated loser to refuse you a LOR.

Re: Risky Evaluation

Posted: Sun May 05, 2013 11:59 pm
by A. Nony Mouse
Yeah, I really doubt a professor would decline to write a LOR over this. (Despite what I've said about not assuming you can use a prof's first name - it's not the kind of thing that would affect an academic evaluation, unless it's one in a series of many annoying moves that lead a prof to question your professionalism. One incident won't do that.)