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CaliAcademic

LOR Question!

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Hi all,

 

I am applying to English and American Studies' PhD programs in the US. All of the schools to which I am applying require 3 letters of recommendation. I have one very strong LOR from an undergraduate professor (Ivy League, very reputable, well known in the field), one from a current master's professor which I believe should be pretty strong as well, and finally one letter from an old lecturer from my current master's program as well. This final letter is the one I am concerned about at the moment. Her letter is quite short and while it does explain I am a strong student, the content itself is not very in-depth. My question to the forum is as follows: will two strong letters of rec offset one OK letter of rec? Conversely, will one OK letter harm two great letters? As you may tell, I am anxious! Any advice would help. Thank you!!

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I think I'm confused as to how you've seen your recommendation. It is usually expected that the recommendations be confidential and submitted directly to the program by the recommender. 

Is there anyone else who would be willing to write you a stronger recommendation than the tepid one?

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Sorry to be blunt, but that does not answer any of my questions. I am aware of how LORs work. This professor sent me a copy of her letter after she submitted for some reason. Didn't ask for it. 

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1 hour ago, CaliAcademic said:

Sorry to be blunt, but that does not answer any of my questions. I am aware of how LORs work. This professor sent me a copy of her letter after she submitted for some reason. Didn't ask for it. 

Okay. But I also asked: Is there anyone else who would be willing to write you a stronger recommendation than the tepid one?

If you don't have anyone who'd be willing to write you a stronger recommendation than the one you already received, I'm not sure there's any point in worrying about it. If you *do* have someone willing to write you a stronger recommendation, I would approach them. 

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I agree with vondafkossum; I don't think it's something to worry about.  But if you can find someone to write to a better recommendation, then go for it.

As to your questions:  I'm sure it's entirely possible that two strong letters of recommendation can offset one that is just OK.  I also think that one letter that's just OK could harm two great letters.  It really depends on the strength of the other two and on the meh-ness of the one you've seen.

I think it's likely that almost every applicant's materials feature one letter that's the strongest, one that's in between, and one that's the least enthusiastic.  That's not to say that third-place letters are unenthusiastic.  It's just pretty unlikely that all letter-writers will voice exactly the same degree of enthusiasm for a given student. 

And I also think that different letter-writers express themselves differently.  One writer might offer qualified or vague praise for even the best students.  Another professor might hail a just-decent student as the next Empson.

I think that adcomms are aware of the varying styles letter-writers employ, and take that into account when reading LORs.  Not that I know for sure; I'm just guessing that's the case.

The bottom line is that I don't think you need every letter to absolutely gush over you for your application to be competitive.

Also, since you mentioned you're anxious, I'll add that ultimately no applicant has control over the content of LORs.  We do have control over our writing samples, SOPs, CVs, etc.  I, too, worried about the quality of my LORs until I recognized that my energy would be better-spent tweaking my SOPs (and eliminating the gajillion typos I managed to include in my first few drafts).  Just my two cents, sorry if I'm overstepping.

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On 11/8/2019 at 11:50 AM, HenryJams said:

I agree with vondafkossum; I don't think it's something to worry about.  But if you can find someone to write to a better recommendation, then go for it.

As to your questions:  I'm sure it's entirely possible that two strong letters of recommendation can offset one that is just OK.  I also think that one letter that's just OK could harm two great letters.  It really depends on the strength of the other two and on the meh-ness of the one you've seen.

I think it's likely that almost every applicant's materials feature one letter that's the strongest, one that's in between, and one that's the least enthusiastic.  That's not to say that third-place letters are unenthusiastic.  It's just pretty unlikely that all letter-writers will voice exactly the same degree of enthusiasm for a given student. 

And I also think that different letter-writers express themselves differently.  One writer might offer qualified or vague praise for even the best students.  Another professor might hail a just-decent student as the next Empson.

I think that adcomms are aware of the varying styles letter-writers employ, and take that into account when reading LORs.  Not that I know for sure; I'm just guessing that's the case.

The bottom line is that I don't think you need every letter to absolutely gush over you for your application to be competitive.

Also, since you mentioned you're anxious, I'll add that ultimately no applicant has control over the content of LORs.  We do have control over our writing samples, SOPs, CVs, etc.  I, too, worried about the quality of my LORs until I recognized that my energy would be better-spent tweaking my SOPs (and eliminating the gajillion typos I managed to include in my first few drafts).  Just my two cents, sorry if I'm overstepping.

This is very helpful! Thank you for your input. I was definitely having an anxious moment. 

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