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LOR's


Hopephily
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I wouldn't worry too much about it. Did you ask them if they would be willing to write you a strong letter? I think most professors would be kind enough to brush away requests from people they feel they couldn't fully endorse. If they agreed to write you a letter, then I imagine that they have something positive to say about your abilities. 

 

Personally, I'm not really  worried about my letters. Although I didn't get to read any of them (bar_scene, I'm so jealous!), I won an 'outstanding grad student' award and have talked at length with each of my letter writers about whether or not I should apply. I don't think any of them have any earth-shattering praise, but I can't imagine that lack luster letters will be my downfall (likely, it will be my WS :-P). 

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I find intimidation and the threat of my wrath worked wonders for getting compelling letters submitted in a timely manner.

 

Oh, and getting their secretary on my side. That usually works within 48 hours.

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Matt, I have always heard that exceptional LOR's is a must.  Have you heard differently? 

 

I've heard similar things. But from discussions elsewhere (smoker, Leiter, etc.) it seems like a lot of letters are quite inflated. Unless they measure you compared to other students (i.e. "top 5% of students I've ever taught!"), I imagine that the lavish praise starts to run together. Tepid letters, on the other hand, will stick out like a sore thumb. 

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It helps if there's actually something unique and interesting that the LOR writer knows to say about you.. something you accomplished, something you wrote that they found interesting. If it's just that you were a vaguely good student.. it'll be just a vaguely good reccomendation.

 

Particular paper topics, projects, etc.. being discussed are good indicators that you actually left an impression.

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Eh, two out of three aint bad.

 

It's not like a school expects you to control how well other people are capable of writing these sorts of things either. Some people are just terrible at it, even those with PhDs.

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I wouldn't worry too much about it. Did you ask them if they would be willing to write you a strong letter? I think most professors would be kind enough to brush away requests from people they feel they couldn't fully endorse. If they agreed to write you a letter, then I imagine that they have something positive to say about your abilities. 

 

Personally, I'm not really  worried about my letters. Although I didn't get to read any of them (bar_scene, I'm so jealous!), I won an 'outstanding grad student' award and have talked at length with each of my letter writers about whether or not I should apply. I don't think any of them have any earth-shattering praise, but I can't imagine that lack luster letters will be my downfall (likely, it will be my WS :-P). 

What can I say? Lady luck has been on my side so far. 2 of my letters come close to earth-shattering praise, which is great, but the third was lackluster. I spoke with him and he said he'd spiff it up.

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My letters should be exceptional. I'm more worried about whether one of my professors will remember to submit them on time. I can only send so many reminder emails...

I'm having this trouble with exactly half of my letter writers (and yes that means I'm submitting an even number of letters to many programs, ie 4). Though, I'm not sure if some have simply procrastinated or if the ones who relatively quickly submitted letters wrote less substantive ones. Though all of my professors seemed to indicate that they felt they could write strong letters. 

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Set firm deadlines - your deadlines. Not the programs. Those are when it's already too late. Check in at intervals and hound them as you approach your deadline. Then two weeks before the real deadline it will be finished, though a week after your deadline.

Edited by Loric
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Essentially asking for a LOR and then expecting it to happen on time is just magical thinking in action. Yet to find anyone who that worked for. Lots of people freaking on the forms over not having a letter they were promised months later though...

Think of it as a test. This is the cheat sheet.

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It was said above, and I must echo: It is best to get letters from people who know interesting things about you and/or see you around a lot. One of my letters is from someone who gave me a very high mark and I ended up top in the course. However, I think the better parts of here letters will be any comments about seeing me at conferences in the audience and at the dais and anything I may have done well there (if anything). 

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Essentially asking for a LOR and then expecting it to happen on time is just magical thinking in action. Yet to find anyone who that worked for. Lots of people freaking on the forms over not having a letter they were promised months later though...

Think of it as a test. This is the cheat sheet.

Both times I have applied my professors have all submitted their letters on time (and in most cases, quite early). As long as you give them enough time in advance and keep them abreast of where you are applying and when the deadlines are - most of them are quite good at getting them submitted. After all, they know the drill. 

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