Jump to content

LOR: academic vs. professional


RPits

Recommended Posts

hi all.

i'm in the 2012 pool, and have a few questions concerning LORs and the sort of variety i should have given my situation. one is a lock-in: my thesis adviser from my masters program. the other two are up in the air. to give you a bit of background, i've been out of undergrand and have been teaching for the past few years. during that time, i've been completing (or, attempting) my masters coursework. i have a couple of options when it comes to the other two LORs, one of which involves having my principal or department chair from my school write one, and obviously speak to my professional capabilities (which i know isn't usually the main point), and my overall goals as an historian. now, i know the ideal situation would be to have three academic if possible. but, what do you think about a person in my situation who has worked professionally for a few years? should all three LORs still be solely academic?

after that, i have three potential choices. option A involves asking another prof. from my masters program who isn't totally familiar with my work, but i'm sure wouldn't hold me back. option B involves an undergrad prof. who is very familiar with my work, but who might also be slightly awkward to get in touch with (given the fact i haven't spoken to her in a couple of years). the last option, C, involves asking a potential adviser from an internship i just landed for the coming summer. now, i know what you're thinking: why would you even think that asking a prof. who might only have known you for a few months speak to your capabilities through an LOR? to quell those thoughts: the only reason i'd consider this is because it's from a pretty reputable institution, the internship is competitive, and the project is pretty unique. i also volunteer (which is technically listed as a non-academic internship) and am working on a pretty massive oral history project for a well-known archives. i didn't consider asking the director, as i've repeatedly read not to have volunteer coordinators write any of your LORs, but worst case scenario i could always fall back on it.

now, if anyone is bored and would like to do some "if, then" sort of work, i'd greatly appreciate the advice!

thanks :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

hi all.

i'm in the 2012 pool, and have a few questions concerning LORs and the sort of variety i should have given my situation. one is a lock-in: my thesis adviser from my masters program. the other two are up in the air. to give you a bit of background, i've been out of undergrand and have been teaching for the past few years. during that time, i've been completing (or, attempting) my masters coursework. i have a couple of options when it comes to the other two LORs, one of which involves having my principal or department chair from my school write one, and obviously speak to my professional capabilities (which i know isn't usually the main point), and my overall goals as an historian. now, i know the ideal situation would be to have three academic if possible. but, what do you think about a person in my situation who has worked professionally for a few years? should all three LORs still be solely academic?

after that, i have three potential choices. option A involves asking another prof. from my masters program who isn't totally familiar with my work, but i'm sure wouldn't hold me back. option B involves an undergrad prof. who is very familiar with my work, but who might also be slightly awkward to get in touch with (given the fact i haven't spoken to her in a couple of years). the last option, C, involves asking a potential adviser from an internship i just landed for the coming summer. now, i know what you're thinking: why would you even think that asking a prof. who might only have known you for a few months speak to your capabilities through an LOR? to quell those thoughts: the only reason i'd consider this is because it's from a pretty reputable institution, the internship is competitive, and the project is pretty unique. i also volunteer (which is technically listed as a non-academic internship) and am working on a pretty massive oral history project for a well-known archives. i didn't consider asking the director, as i've repeatedly read not to have volunteer coordinators write any of your LORs, but worst case scenario i could always fall back on it.

now, if anyone is bored and would like to do some "if, then" sort of work, i'd greatly appreciate the advice!

thanks :)

I've been working for almost 6 years since I got my masters and its been 8 years since I finished undergrad, so I was in a similar position. Furthermore, I didn't really feel comfortable with my MA professors doing my recommendation, as we never really built a great rapport (the institution/department is much more focused on their PhD students. So I had one of my professors from undergrad whi I was still in touch with wrote one. For my other two, I had co-workers write them. One was a former boss, a PhD, well respected in military affairs, a tenure track professor, and currently on leave and a high ranking official in the national security world. The third one was a current colleague who is similarly well regarded, and has written several books. I worked with both of these individuals on academic-focused work in the defense field (reports, studies, etc). I don't think this hurt me since i got into two programs (one a top 20) with full funding and just missed two others (top 15) by one spot. So you may not get into Harvard or Yale with the types of LORs we have to use, but you can do pretty well for yourself. If you can get good recommendations from professors at your MA institution who know you well, that's obviously ideal. If not, try your undergrad professors if you keep in touch with any of them so they remember who you are. If that doesn't work, try to find someone if at all possible who can at least speak to your ability to apply academic rigor to a problem or question, as well as your research, analytical, and/or writing capabilities.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

i would recommend doing your best to get 3 academic LORs.

what you really want is an LOR that can attest to your research ability. your principal cannot do that, regardless of how well he knows your professional work as a teacher. the adcoms don't want to know that you'd be a good adjunct or lecturer. they want to know that you'd be capable of writing a thesis or dissertation. people who get letters from professionals usually get ones that still attest to their research ability. lawyers and journalists do plenty of research (albeit of a different type) so these can be decent substitutes for academic LORs. ideally, if you need to get a letter from your professional life, the letter writer should have a PhD or advanced graduate degree. adcoms want an assessment of your potential as a grad student coming from someone that is at least familiar with the rigors of grad school.

it doesn't sound like you've actually been out of school that long. you were doing a masters (or at least the coursework?) while teaching. a colleague of mine did that exact same thing before getting admitted to my program, and he got letters from his MA professors. it may be awkward but i really recommend trying to get your LORs from grad and undergrad professors. as i said, professional LORs can often be acceptable, but they still need to attest to your research skills.

if i were you, i'd drop the principal from your list. i'd also drop the volunteer LOR writer, since you've read something somewhere (it was unclear) that say not to. get in touch with old masters profs and your old undergrad prof. don't ask for letters now, but say you're thinking of grad school and want their advice. do it NOW. remind them of your work, ask to show them your SOP or writing sample, ask them where you should apply. then, in september/october, ask for the letter. this way you'll have built up a good 4-5 months of contact with them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Awkward to ask someone whom you haven't talked to in 3 years?

Not.

I met with an old professor of mine last fall after not really seeing him or being in touch for 2 1/2 years to get some advice. He ended up being fare more helpful than I could ever expect.

Don't underestimate professors. You never know who can surprise you.

And yes, anyone who writes a letter fro you should have a PhD and can judge whether or not you can finish the diss. They know it's hell and if they don't think you can do the diss, they won't recommend you highly. or at all.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Awkward to ask someone whom you haven't talked to in 3 years?

Not.

I met with an old professor of mine last fall after not really seeing him or being in touch for 2 1/2 years to get some advice. He ended up being fare more helpful than I could ever expect.

Don't underestimate professors. You never know who can surprise you.

And yes, anyone who writes a letter fro you should have a PhD and can judge whether or not you can finish the diss. They know it's hell and if they don't think you can do the diss, they won't recommend you highly. or at all.

StrangeLight and ticklemepink are right. An LOR is not a character reference. It is an assessment of your suitability for graduate school, and, most importantly, your potential to complete a dissertation. If you have a professor that you haven't talked to in a few years, it is still appropriate to ask them to write you a letter. However, you should have available for them some of the work you did in their class as well as a draft of your personal statement to help them write you a more focused and personalized letter, which is crucial.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Get professors from your history department to write you a letters of recommendation. They need to be familiar with your work! Preferebly someone whom you have taken a seminar with that included a significant writing project or that you have written a thesis under his/ her supervision. Anything less than this can hurt your chances of getting into a good program.

Try to secure at least four letters of recommendation. Ask for three academic letters and one recommender who can speak to your teaching skills/ experience-- some graduate programs (Berkeley, Stanford to name a few) like this because its what most students do after the Ph.D. But one should be enough, do not compromise your ability to do research/write for teaching--or you will end up selling yourself short. If the online application allows for four applications then submit all four.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

hi everyone, thanks so much for the practical advice. i'm sure if i make an effort to get into contact with two of my undergrad profs. they'll be willing. i like the idea of seeking their advice first, though. i will start with that now. as for the other two, my thesis adviser is a definite go, and i'm sure another prof. from my current program would sign off (that i've taken some classes with), i just never felt myself seriously seeking her advice, that's why i feel a bit awkward. i guess i should get over that! i appreciate everyone's input. thanks!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

People who really know you, and know your work, are much more important. That aid, a prof from 6-8 years ago who got to know you will still likely remember you; you may need to remind them of some details but they'll still likely have a sense of who you were.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. See our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use