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choosing professional or academic reference


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I'm applying to a program that says they prefer academic references over professional ones but that professional is accepted. They said they want to know about us in an academic setting. I have one good academic reference, but I think my current boss knows me much better than anyone that would do a 2nd letter (even more than the 1st prof I'm asking). I've worked under him closely for 1 year now and I know for a fact he has a lot of respect for my work and intelligence. 


So what's better, the academic reference they prefer- which would end up being a decent one, or a professional reference that isn't their first choice, but would be the most personal and detailed. 



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If your boss is a part of the field you're going to graduate school for, and knows about work in that field, include him. For example, you're an accountant and he runs an accounting firm, and you're heading off for an MBA or MA in accounting. The school is not looking for references about your personality, ability work with others, unrelated work, or your intelligence. They're looking for someone who has the credentials to tell them about you as a scholar/academic or your time working in the field you're pursuing. Professional references are good for people who have been out of school for a few years and only have bosses and colleagues for references about recent work. Yes, you can use your boss as a primary reference if you think he has anything relevant to say about your work in your field of study and your academics. Otherwise, you should have at least three academic references (that's the minimum most schools ask for), and add the boss as a fourth.

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If you do go with your boss as a reference, it might be worth it to spend a few minutes with him to ensure he understands the difference between an academic LOR for grad school and a typical letter of reference for professional settings. 

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