Asking professor friend for LOR

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hamburg

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Asking professor friend for LOR

Postby hamburg » Tue Jul 12, 2016 4:23 pm

My first LOR will be from my current employer, and I'm trying to decide the best place to go for a second. I'm 3 years out of undergrad with no relationship with a prior professor.

I've already asked the one I thought I'd have the best shot with, but she didn't remember me well enough to write a decent letter. I could basically mass email the others, and I'm sure at least one would write a form letter. Basically I will just be a face that they kind of remember seeing and talking to briefly 3-4 years ago.

My second option would be to ask a professor from my university, with whom I have a very close relationship. He's outside of my college, but we met through my GF (now wife), hit it off, and he became somewhat of a mentor to me throughout school. I'm sure he would write me a very strong letter, and would probably include something to the effect of "I never had John Doe as a student, but BLAH BLAH BLAH". My thinking is that he has a lot of experience writing LORs (I know many of his students ask him for them), and has the added credibility to talk about academic potential that it seems adcoms are looking for. Our relationship has strictly been as adults, this isn't a "friend of the family who happens to be a professor" kind of thing.

Would this be a good idea, or does it have potential to be viewed negatively for some reason? Like I said, my other option is to hope for a form letter.

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Blueprint Mithun

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Re: Asking professor friend for LOR

Postby Blueprint Mithun » Tue Jul 12, 2016 6:46 pm

hamburg wrote:My first LOR will be from my current employer, and I'm trying to decide the best place to go for a second. I'm 3 years out of undergrad with no relationship with a prior professor.

I've already asked the one I thought I'd have the best shot with, but she didn't remember me well enough to write a decent letter. I could basically mass email the others, and I'm sure at least one would write a form letter. Basically I will just be a face that they kind of remember seeing and talking to briefly 3-4 years ago.

My second option would be to ask a professor from my university, with whom I have a very close relationship. He's outside of my college, but we met through my GF (now wife), hit it off, and he became somewhat of a mentor to me throughout school. I'm sure he would write me a very strong letter, and would probably include something to the effect of "I never had John Doe as a student, but BLAH BLAH BLAH". My thinking is that he has a lot of experience writing LORs (I know many of his students ask him for them), and has the added credibility to talk about academic potential that it seems adcoms are looking for. Our relationship has strictly been as adults, this isn't a "friend of the family who happens to be a professor" kind of thing.

Would this be a good idea, or does it have potential to be viewed negatively for some reason? Like I said, my other option is to hope for a form letter.


When you say he was "somewhat of a mentor" to you, what do you mean? Did he ever look over work that you did, maybe essays or the like? Did you ever do assignments or research for him, or was he more of an advisor to you? If it was the latter, then I can't help but think that will be viewed as less rigorous than a letter from a traditional professor. Though I'd still probably go for that over a form letter.

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bretby

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Re: Asking professor friend for LOR

Postby bretby » Tue Jul 12, 2016 8:11 pm

hamburg wrote:My first LOR will be from my current employer, and I'm trying to decide the best place to go for a second. I'm 3 years out of undergrad with no relationship with a prior professor.

I've already asked the one I thought I'd have the best shot with, but she didn't remember me well enough to write a decent letter. I could basically mass email the others, and I'm sure at least one would write a form letter. Basically I will just be a face that they kind of remember seeing and talking to briefly 3-4 years ago.

My second option would be to ask a professor from my university, with whom I have a very close relationship. He's outside of my college, but we met through my GF (now wife), hit it off, and he became somewhat of a mentor to me throughout school. I'm sure he would write me a very strong letter, and would probably include something to the effect of "I never had John Doe as a student, but BLAH BLAH BLAH". My thinking is that he has a lot of experience writing LORs (I know many of his students ask him for them), and has the added credibility to talk about academic potential that it seems adcoms are looking for. Our relationship has strictly been as adults, this isn't a "friend of the family who happens to be a professor" kind of thing.

Would this be a good idea, or does it have potential to be viewed negatively for some reason? Like I said, my other option is to hope for a form letter.


That's a tough one. If you never did any work FOR HIM (ie: if he just read work you did for others) that he can speak about specifically and make direct comparisons between you and other students, the letter would likely not be very strong. More troubling, it should be pretty easy for an adcom to sniff out that out and I can't see how that wouldn't seem very odd. Your best bet is to gather together some old papers, preferably with their feedback directly on the papers, that you wrote for a former professor that you actually had, write up a paragraph or two about what you did in their class (what you wrote about, how you contributed to the discussion, etc.) and email it to them. The old papers may jog their memory, and the chances are fairly high that the professor will use what you write in the paragraph as a launching off point for the letter (and they may even copy and paste it). If any were large classes and you had sections, you should also definitely email your TA, as they will probably remember you better and can put in a good word for you with the prof.



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