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goomba25

Does "3 professors" really mean 3 professors?

7 posts in this topic

Hello everyone,

Most of the programs applying to require 3 LORs from professors. Problem: my strongest letters come from work experience and volunteer/internships.

I have strong letters from 1 prof and 1-2 internships/work, probably mediocre from 1 prof and 1 internship.

What should I do? Focus on the letters that will make me look the best? Or show that I can follow directions by sending in letters from 3 professors, even if they're not the strongest?

P.S.: What are AdComs looking for in a LOR? If they're looking for learning potential, then I may have to use profs anyways.

FYI: I'm going for a Master's in Public Health (MPH), though I'm not sure if that matters.

Thanks for viewing! Any random thoughts would be appreciated.

Edited by goomba25

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My usual advice is to always solicit letters from those who know you best. That said, I hesitate to tell you to solicit more than 1 recommendation from someone who can't speak to your scholarship/research.

As to what an adcom looks for in a LoR: they want a picture of you as a candidate, and they want opinions on how well suited you are for graduate-level work (coming from someone else who knows what it takes to succeed as a graduate student). They want to know what kind of potential you have for doing scholarly work in their program.

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I agree with runonsentence. Generally, you should not use more than one non-academic referee. But, I'm in the Humanities and I'm not sure how adcomms in MPH approach LORs. Were the internships related to the work you'd be doing in an MPH program? If so, I could see how it might be more acceptable.

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While I agree with the previous posters, that it is better to get it from academic sources and your ability to academic work, there are several other points to make.

One, does your work or internships reflect what you want to do in grad school, show that you have good experience in the field that you want to go into and the like. If it is relevant to what you want to do in grad school, that is a point in the favor of possibly getting those. Also, would the letters from your supervisors have credentials that say they know what it is like to go through grad school, and therefore, might have a good idea if you could make it through it as well.

The second, and more important thing in my mind at this point is what the programs that your applying to think. What I would suggest is emailing each of them, and see if they would find this acceptable. Some programs are more 'rigid' about this rule, they ask for three rec's from professors, and they feel like it gives them a certain perspecitive. But others are more 'flexable' and say that letters from other sources are good, as long as they somehow show that you are capable of doing the work.

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Why don't you contact the DG to ask if previous students who have been accepted into the program used letters that weren't necessarily from professors?

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Thank you everyone for replying! I've been very busy this past week. Too many things happening at the same time...

@runonsentence: Yes, I figured that grad committees wanted to see study potential too.

@natsteel: Yes, my internships were either directly or closely related to the program/field I'm applying to.

@kitkat: I guess I could ask my letter writers to include their credentials in their letter. Some have masters/doctorates. Also, I didn't know that some schools would be flexible, though my entire application rides on them being flexible about some requirements anyways.

@clio11: What's a DG? I can only think of Director-General.

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For posterity, clio11 messaged me that "DG" is "Director of Graduate Studies".

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