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How to choose recommenders?


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Hey all, 

I'm trying to nail down who my recommenders should be, and am stuck on the third recommender. My first two seem fairly obvious choices – a mentor with whom I've taken three separate classes, and my undergraduate thesis advisor. What's getting me is my third recommender. Should I ask 

1)  A professor that I took a class with and TA-ed for, whose work is outside of sociology but who knows me extremely well, or 

2) A big-name scholar with whom I'm currently doing research, but who has only known me for about a month. 

My impulse is to ask scholar #1, since scholar  #2 doesn't quite know me well enough to write a detailed letter and could perhaps be more helpful later in my career, but I've heard that some schools are concerned with the recommenders' names and I want to cover my bases. Thoughts?

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I would probably go with the one who knows you well, unless the other is truly a superstar. Maybe ask one of your current recommenders what they think? I asked one of my recommenders who else I should ask and got good advice about it. 

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I'd personally ask #1 for a few reasons:

1) They know you better and can speak to both your academic skill and your work ethic (in other words, they know you in two different roles). 

2) Taking a current class with someone who's writing you a letter seems tricky to me-- I would add  unnecessary pressure on myself trying to  make sure I impress them, or I would think they are critiquing me at all times.

3) It's better to have a great letter than a big name. If you are pretty sure #1 will write you an amazing letter, then that is worth so much more than an average, generic letter from a big name. 

Edited by Cryss
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