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Most of the colleges I have been looking at required 2-3 LoRs and I was pretty sure that wouldn't be a problem.


I emailed the people I was going to request letters from last night and the wife of the professor I worked the most with and knows what I am capable of has just informed me he has died. I'm upset about the loss of my professor (really amazing fellow and I would have liked to have attended his funeral/memorial service) but I am also a little disheartened by the idea that one of my best LoRs are gone. So that leaves me with a Graduate student I worked with and a professor who doesn't like to check her email and tends not to respond for a good couple of months (took me 10 months to get a response from her about a paper...I was clear out of her class by then).


So should I just throw in the towel or is there any hope of salvaging my quest for grad school now? I could get a LoR from my boss who was a professor for Columbia University but, I'm his babysitter, not student and he taught biology. What do I do?

Edited by brinut22
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Talk to some of your professors you've had and liked and see what they have to say/offer. There is one professor at my UG program that only requires people take a class with her before writing them a letter. The reason for this is she has students evaluate each other anonymously every other week and keeps these evaluations. Then, when you ask her, she will interview you 3-4 times about what your goals are in grad school and life, what your interests are, etc. Finally, she asks for, and edits, your SOP and CV and uses all of that in her decision/letter. You might have someone similar in your department and you just don't know it. She is not a celebrity name but she does know a lot of people in a lot of top programs (MA's from Michigan and Washington, PhD from Michigan, post-doc at Berkeley) so she does have a good reputation in the field and her recommendations carry some weight.


I'm sure most departments have someone similar. You don't need recommendations only from rockstars in your field/subfield to get accepted. Strong letters from people who are well respected by their colleagues are good as well.

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Sorry to hear about that brinut. Don't be discouraged, though. This might be awkward, but you could reach out to the department chair. Tell her/him that you were a sociology grad, you worked for professor so-and-so, just learned about his/her passing, and need to find other recommendation writers. Departments usually want to promote their UGs in the application process-- it reflects well on them to have UGs at strong grad programs. Ask if you can set up informational meetings with some faculty, explain your situation, offer to show them a draft of your SoP and some of your writing, and then request if they could recommend you. If it's possible, actually going to your UG campus for a day to have meetings will make a huge difference. I did that before I applied and it helped tremendously. Face to a name sort of thing. Some people might say no, but you don't want them writing letters for you anyway. 


This means you'll need to do extra preparation. Draft an SoP, update your CV, and maybe write out a goals statement (which is not required for grad school applications, but helps letter writers figure out what to say about you.)


Remember that part of our "service" requirement as professors will be to write letters of recommendation for people we hardly know. It's basically in the job description. Just present yourself as well prepared and do your research, and I'm sure you can pick up some letter writers. You'll need three. 

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Just to clarify, I think doing informational interviews with faculty and your UG now or soon is a good first step. At that meeting, just chit-chat about sociology and ask if you can pass along a draft SoP in a month or so (Before finals!). As a second step, meet with them again or over email to ask for a letter of rec. You won't need those until like November or December, so you have a few months to build a relationship before you actually request letters in Sept or Oct. 

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