Schmoozing for recommendations

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PhofiB
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Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2010 8:02 pm

Schmoozing for recommendations

Postby PhofiB » Thu Jan 14, 2010 2:58 pm

I'm still an undergrad, and won't be applying to law school for at least a few years yet... but I was wondering...

I know letters of recommendation can make or break an admission offer sometimes. I want to be sure I can get some great letters... however, I always feel awkward trying to "click" with the few professors that I have had for classes repeatedly. A few of them have written letters for me before for other things already, so I'm hoping that they'll be willing to do me the favor again when I'm applying to law school.

Should I be making the extra effort to stop by their office hours and small talk and such at least once or twice through the semester when I don't have them for class? I always feel weird doing that unless there is a real class/schoolwork/academic issue at hand that I can go in with. I guess I feel like I'm forcing a relationship or something just to get a favor later on.

Don't get me wrong though, the profs. that I have somewhat "clicked" with are people whose work I really admire. It's more of my self-consciousness that I need to get over.

What do you suggest I do to keep maintaining good relationships with a few profs for recommendations later on? Also, what's the best way to ask for a letter? What else should you include besides perhaps a resume and a transcript for them to reference in writing a letter? Does a thank you card suffice afterward?

thaaanks :)

PhofiB
Posts: 12
Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2010 8:02 pm

Re: Schmoozing for recommendations

Postby PhofiB » Thu Jan 14, 2010 3:04 pm

sorry... didn't realize i posted this in this this forum...

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nematoad
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Re: Schmoozing for recommendations

Postby nematoad » Thu Jan 14, 2010 3:05 pm

I think all of your feelings are pretty understandable as I've questioned my motives with these sorta things. I got lucky and had the same professor 3 times and got to gradually know him, in other words, i didnt "force it". It worked for 2 letters of rec and made them more personalized and the professors said theyd do whatever they could to get me into al law school i didnt deserve. I dont know if you can expect get that for every recommender, but it makes life easier when you see them for more than a semester. Try taking another class by the same prof., they like it when you like their classes. If not, you just gotta schmooze it up.

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neimanmarxist
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Re: Schmoozing for recommendations

Postby neimanmarxist » Thu Jan 14, 2010 3:09 pm

I think the best way to do this is to see your faculty members for legitimate *reasons* . For example, you're writing a paper for your Politics and Development in Latin America class , and you'd love to get some reading suggestions from your Latin American history teacher, who is one of your target people for a rec letter. This makes you seem like a serious, curious, intellectual, not like a schmoozer. Come talk to them about issues in their field. Make your questions pointed and timely. Most faculty, especially if you're at a big research institution, don't really want to deal with undergrads unless they are really serious. For every teddy-bear prof that invites all the students in his/her class to dinner at their house, there are three dozen that just want to be left alone. Believe me.

Sign up for office hours or make an appointment. Never just "drop by." Unless you're at a liberal arts college that is especially academic-community friendly, faculty dislike it when students just show up . It shows a disregard for their time.

Tell them about your plans to go to law school early on. Ask their advice on the best classes in their department given your interest in x, etc. If the faculty member is giving a talk on campus, or something like that, make sure that you are in attendance. If you write a thesis, ask them to advise you.

Maximize your opportunities for meaningful intellectual interaction with these people. Don't waste their time. show an interest in serious scholarship. Give them plenty of time to write the letter when the time comes, and you will be in a great place to get a great letter!

Best of luck.
Last edited by neimanmarxist on Thu Jan 14, 2010 3:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

derwin
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Re: Schmoozing for recommendations

Postby derwin » Thu Jan 14, 2010 3:10 pm

Its like any other free market practice, your self interest will create benefit for others too. Yes, stop by your professors offices, ask them about their work, discuss current class topics, smile when you see them. Before long you won't be faking it anyway. You will find yourself wondering what these professors are up to, and wanting to stop by their offices. Your professors will enjoy interacting with an interested student, you will learn more about what these professors are doing as well as what you need to know for class, and perhaps you will even get a good LOR out of it. If you find it awkward, start by asking questions about the class - things you might not need to know for the exam, but things that seem even marginally interesting to you.

You will not be the first student who needs a LOR who has been stopping by their office and will not be the last. Build a relationship with them and then ask for a LOR - go into it with the understanding that you are in part motivated by attaining a good LOR, but you will find that you will enjoy other aspects of the interaction as well.

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Pankun
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Re: Schmoozing for recommendations

Postby Pankun » Thu Jan 14, 2010 3:12 pm

Also, see if they have any work they can give you. I'm not sure how it works in humanities, but many science professors need students for lab work. In my case, I took one of my professors out to lunch one day (and I paid the tab of course). I just mentioned that I was applying to law schools and he just offered to write me a letter of recommendation.

EDIT: Maybe humanities profs need students to grade essays, etc. Or even proof-read and fact-check their own research papers.

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englawyer
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Re: Schmoozing for recommendations

Postby englawyer » Thu Jan 14, 2010 3:15 pm

i remember feeling awkward about this in u-grad as well. what you have to realize is that LOR/getting to know students is "part of the job". Don't feel like you are obligating. go to their office hours and "ask them something about class" or explore a topic further.

Also, you need to get used to this in life. You will find yourself emailing alums etc "for coffee" to get a job and what have you. I hate "networking" but that's how the world works

drsomebody
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Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:16 pm

Re: Schmoozing for recommendations

Postby drsomebody » Thu Jan 14, 2010 4:10 pm

I'm writing this from a position of having taught undergrad classes and written LORs and job reference letters for undergrad students.

neimanmarxist and pankun are giving advice that is spot-on. I just wanted to add that the best way to get very good letters is to do research for a professor. A lot of institutions have paid and unpaid undergrad research opportunities. DO THIS. Humanities professors always need library-monkeys, copyeditors, and folk to do clerical work. Doing research for a professor will get them to support you far more than taking a class, writing good papers, and being a "good student." If your school doesn't have a formal undergrad research program, I'd suggest asking a professor at the end of a quarter where you've done exceptionally well if they have any research you can attach yourself to.

The only big caveat is that you NEED to take your research opportunity seriously. More seriously than you take your classes. There is nothing that pisses me off more than a student who signs up to work for me and then, after I've spent several hours training them in research methods, gives up because they found something more exciting to do with their time. That might be the only circumstance under which I would write somebody a bad LOR (although honestly I'd just tell them to get the LOR from soebody else - but other professors might have a different sense of ethics).




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