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(Applications Advice, Letters of Recommendation . . . )
dontrogerthat
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Postby dontrogerthat » Sat Feb 28, 2015 9:34 pm

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Last edited by dontrogerthat on Wed Apr 22, 2015 8:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

iliketurtles123
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Re: No solid Letters of Rec...am I screwed?

Postby iliketurtles123 » Sat Feb 28, 2015 9:44 pm

Don't worry.
When I was applying I spammed every teacher I got an "A" in. Two of them said yes. Most of them said no, or refused to respond. I would be more worried about getting the letters. Doesn't matter how great they are.
I was applying during the summer so I couldn't ask them face to face. I'm sure if you ask them face to face, they'll be more obliged to say yes.
It was about 2-3 years since I took their classes. I never went to office hours, didn't speak to them. I'm sure they have no idea who I am. Our school has over 20,000 people. The letter was probably boilerplate but it worked out. Ended up at a T6 with very few softs and borderline numbers.

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RZ5646
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Re: No solid Letters of Rec...am I screwed?

Postby RZ5646 » Sat Feb 28, 2015 9:54 pm

Numbers are 98% of admissions. The only person I know of who outperformed his numbers with stellar letters was Ted Bundy, and we know how that turned out.

dontrogerthat
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Re: No solid Letters of Rec...am I screwed?

Postby dontrogerthat » Sun Mar 01, 2015 12:46 am

Thanks for the responses!

stt1
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Re: No solid Letters of Rec...am I screwed?

Postby stt1 » Sun Mar 01, 2015 2:21 am

This might depend on how high your sights are set. If you are applying to Yale or Stanford (Harvard also to a slightly lesser extent), or are going for top scholarships, then letters of recommendation are critical and having both your letter writers just say "_____ did well in my class and got an A. He always turned his work in on time and made several good comments during class discussions" might be the kiss of death for your application.

Basically, when numbers are necessary but not a guarantee of an admissions result (which is true of the best results) you have room for recommendations to become important. For further discussion, I'll quote Yale's Dean of admissions post below: http://blogs.law.yale.edu/blogs/admissi ... ation.aspx

-------

"...Do you ever wonder why someone with a 3.95/178 gets rejected but someone with a 3.81/172 gets in? It's because of comments like these (these are actual or close approximations to verbiage from LORs of students who have been accepted in the past):

"[Applicant] is hands down the single best undergraduate I have ever taught in my 37 years of teaching. Period."

"[Student A] and [Student B], both of whom I taught, are currently at Yale Law School. [Applicant] is better than both of them put together."

"At that point in the discussion I almost sat down and let [Applicant] teach the class -- s/he could have done a better job."

"Any admissions officer who doesn't admit [Applicant] is -- and I beg your pardon -- an idiot."

Over the top? Possibly. But these are the kind of subjective evaluations you are up against. Even in the screening stage, if I know that you don't stand a chance of being admitted by the faculty -- because, for example, in spite of your pretty good numbers you have offered little or no corroboration of your academic ability from professors who have taught you -- I may not send you on at all. It really depends on how good the rest of your application is (though to be honest, it's even more of a red flag if you have a straight-A average and couldn't manage to come up with two faculty references...it makes me wonder whether you are hiding something, like a serious personality defect or crippling social disorder)."

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RZ5646
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Re: No solid Letters of Rec...am I screwed?

Postby RZ5646 » Sun Mar 01, 2015 2:40 am

Considering letters of recommendation in admissions is absurd because the letter depends at least as much on the personality of the recommender as it does the qualities of the applicant. One professor might give tepid recommendations to great students and another might rave that every A student is the second coming of Christ. Since letters are supposed to be confidential, there is no good strategy for selecting recommenders, and so it's basically a slightly high-stakes gamble.

Thankfully LoRs aren't supposed to mean much compared to numbers, but I think it's ridiculous that they mean anything at all.

Quotes like that guarantee that I won't even apply to Yale.

iliketurtles123
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Re: No solid Letters of Rec...am I screwed?

Postby iliketurtles123 » Sun Mar 01, 2015 2:57 am

stt1 wrote:This might depend on how high your sights are set. If you are applying to Yale or Stanford (Harvard also to a slightly lesser extent), or are going for top scholarships, then letters of recommendation are critical and having both your letter writers just say "_____ did well in my class and got an A. He always turned his work in on time and made several good comments during class discussions" might be the kiss of death for your application.

Basically, when numbers are necessary but not a guarantee of an admissions result (which is true of the best results) you have room for recommendations to become important. For further discussion, I'll quote Yale's Dean of admissions post below: http://blogs.law.yale.edu/blogs/admissi ... ation.aspx

-------

"...Do you ever wonder why someone with a 3.95/178 gets rejected but someone with a 3.81/172 gets in? It's because of comments like these (these are actual or close approximations to verbiage from LORs of students who have been accepted in the past):

"[Applicant] is hands down the single best undergraduate I have ever taught in my 37 years of teaching. Period."

"[Student A] and [Student B], both of whom I taught, are currently at Yale Law School. [Applicant] is better than both of them put together."

"At that point in the discussion I almost sat down and let [Applicant] teach the class -- s/he could have done a better job."

"Any admissions officer who doesn't admit [Applicant] is -- and I beg your pardon -- an idiot."

Over the top? Possibly. But these are the kind of subjective evaluations you are up against. Even in the screening stage, if I know that you don't stand a chance of being admitted by the faculty -- because, for example, in spite of your pretty good numbers you have offered little or no corroboration of your academic ability from professors who have taught you -- I may not send you on at all. It really depends on how good the rest of your application is (though to be honest, it's even more of a red flag if you have a straight-A average and couldn't manage to come up with two faculty references...it makes me wonder whether you are hiding something, like a serious personality defect or crippling social disorder)."


I agree with you.
However, it seems like OP is more concerned with whether he/she is "screwed" by no LORs. Given the circumstances it seems like his/her primary concern is getting accepted to a T14, and not so much getting into HYS or getting a Hamilton

stt1
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Re: No solid Letters of Rec...am I screwed?

Postby stt1 » Sun Mar 01, 2015 3:12 am

RZ5646,

GPA is meaningless because course difficulty varies between schools and majors, and some schools policy of allowing A+ causes huge distortions.

LSAT is largely trainable and subject to the random performance on a given test-day, and has little relationship to ability to practice transactional law (indeed, really is only a great test for measuring aptitude for appellate litigation, which very few will do).

Personal Statements are highly crafted, unrealistic looks at candidates writing ability and motivations, because of unlimited time, and, in some cases, access to admissions consultants.

...obviously, there are some over statements above, but just as obviously, most admissions factors are rather problematic.

As to your objection regarding professor personality, I think I've read before various admissions officers at many schools noting that of greatest importance in letters is the professor discussing specific examples that demonstrate the ability they claim the student to have, both demonstrating they indeed do know the applicant and revealing the basis for their praise. So I don't think it is entirely a weighing of how over-the-top the praise is, and I think they try to discount the hollow remarks and focus on the specifics.

But, indeed, your point is valid, and I think that was Dean Asha's point as well--not that you need such over-the-top praise in every case, but rather that there is a bit of an arms race, and at the least you cannot have an entirely lukewarm letter that reads like the prof. doesn't know you. I think she would likely consider just as well a letter that, while voiced in a more measured tone, presented a great many specific examples demonstrating candidate ability (though. I am extrapolating from things I have read elsewhere).

I also think it can be somewhat managed. First, you develop a relationship with the profs in question. Then, instead of asking for a letter, you tell them about your intent to apply to law school, and get their thoughts. Later, you ask, not if they would write a letter for you, but rather if they would feel comfortable writing a strong letter, and you specifically note you would understand if they have any hesitencies. If they are up for it, you then tell them briefly about how law schools are looking for letters demonstrating candidate ability with specific examples. At every stage, you gauge their enusiasm and willingness.

LoR are random if you treat them like a one-time ask and send-in procedure, but if you apply the same level of care as you do to personal statements and LSAT prep, they can be pretty predictable.

stt1
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Re: No solid Letters of Rec...am I screwed?

Postby stt1 » Sun Mar 01, 2015 3:20 am

iliketurtles,

Very probably you are correct. I would guess they would still have some importance for any school where your numbers are at the level where admission seems equally unlikely and likely, as at that point it is always going to be decided based on the amorphous soft facts that LoR belong to. In some sense you will always be at that borderline level with some schools (until you do get to the very top), and if you care about the difference in ranks of a few slots, then LoR may be important. But you are right, you wouldn't be, as OP put it, "screwed" for the t14.

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Rigo
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Re: No solid Letters of Rec...am I screwed?

Postby Rigo » Sun Mar 01, 2015 11:39 am

Get those letters now if you can. The biggest stressor during my first cycle was that I was left twiddling my thumbs as my LOR writers took their sweet time. Don't let that happen to you. If you have an LSAC account already, get the letters locked in and submitted ASAP.

mvp99
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Re: No solid Letters of Rec...am I screwed?

Postby mvp99 » Sun Mar 01, 2015 12:23 pm

I think LOR value in the admission process is either in the fact that you got the letter itself and maybe that someone wrote something objectively bad about you. there is no positive value to it beyond that. And if you cant get one, thats saying a lot about you and your relationship with people.

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KissMyAxe
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Re: No solid Letters of Rec...am I screwed?

Postby KissMyAxe » Sun Mar 01, 2015 3:28 pm

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RZ5646
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Re: No solid Letters of Rec...am I screwed?

Postby RZ5646 » Sun Mar 01, 2015 3:41 pm

Meh, I don't the way that schools like Y, S, and B present themselves as special just because they have more arbitrary demands than the rest of the T14. But that in itself wouldn't stop me from applying; rather, I won't apply to YS because I'm sure that with their unusual admissions criteria I'd get rejected anyway.

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KissMyAxe
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Re: No solid Letters of Rec...am I screwed?

Postby KissMyAxe » Sun Mar 01, 2015 4:11 pm

RZ5646 wrote:Meh, I don't the way that schools like Y, S, and B present themselves as special just because they have more arbitrary demands than the rest of the T14. But that in itself wouldn't stop me from applying; rather, I won't apply to YS because I'm sure that with their unusual admissions criteria I'd get rejected anyway.


I don't see how it's arbitrary. The LSAT is learnable, GPAs are so subjective that class difficulty can vary not just from school to school or major to major, but within the exact same department. Personal statements can be edited to the extent that they no longer reflect someone's actual writing. By also valuing softs, recommendations, and the LSAT writing sample, you can obtain a class that is more interesting and well-rounded than a class of aspies who just are academic beasts. YSB have the best admissions processes by far in my opinion. And since Yale and Stanford are the best schools, they can afford to do that and not have it hurt their numbers.




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