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LOR advice please


captiv8ed
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Hi all. I am trying to get all my academic ducks in a row, to apply this fall. I am a bit stuck on the letter question.

I have 2 recommenders who are well known in the field and will give me strong letters. I am trying to decide on the third.

I did an internship at my state capitol this spring. I worked for 3 state reps. All 3 offered me letters of recommendation. Should I use one of them? Or will it be frowned upon since they are not academics? My other strong choice is my cultural anthropology teacher. She would write me a good letter. She is a community college teacher though, and I don't think she is known outside of her school. But she is the dean of social sciences for the community college, if that helps. Do either of the choices sound appealing?

Thanks for the feedback!

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Do not use the politicians. If the cultural anthropology person is the only other academic who knows you and your work, use her. Since you already have two big figures, try to find another professor who may not be a big shot but knows you and your work very well. Don't use anyone outside of academia when applying to PhD programs.

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Thanks for the advice. The anthro teacher is a sociology teacher as well. I will get in touch with her

Agreed, great advice.

While we're on the subject I'd like to share my situation. I think it may be a challenging one.

I've been mostly out of school for about 25 years. I took three graduate level courses in 1995 in another field. I have a BA with a double major of Sociology and Anthropology. I have lined up one of the professors from 1995 (Human Resource Development and Adult Education graduate course towared a Masters in Education) to write a letter of recommendation. I know where to find another one of those professors from 1995 (taught Mediation and Coflict Resolution graduate course toward the M.Ed.) and the third I have not yet located (Taught Diversity in Education and Work graduate course toward the M.Ed.) I have rconnected with my Sociology Advisor from the late 1970s and I know where to find my Anthropology Advisor (retired).

After completing my BA in Sociology and Anthropology I went on to get a BS in Computer Science and worked in that industry for most of the next 25 years. The professors I had in computer science won't remember me. I only had them for one or two courses in rapid succession. The Advisors I had for Sociology and Anthropology I had for many courses and a summer of archeological field school.

I gather that I should stick with the accademics and not think about those with or for which I have worked.

I'm trying to take a graduate course or two as a non-degree seeking (so far) student and get some relationships built and I am going to the ASA Annual Meeting in San Francisco to meet some folks. I might have a few months before the Dec 1 deadline to persuade someone to write a letter of recommendation for me.

Related question: Do these folks write one letter and send it to all the places I am going to apply?

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While we're on the subject I'd like to share my situation. I think it may be a challenging one.

I've been mostly out of school for about 25 years.

...

I gather that I should stick with the academics and not think about those with or for which I have worked.

I'm in a similar situation, though I've been out 10 years. The professors and DGSs that I've talked to have all suggested including a recent professional reference from someone who can attest to my current accomplishments, skills, etc. The consensus seems to be that it's good to have a well-rounded picture of the applicant, even if that means getting a non-academic reference. (I assume, however, that if one has only been out of school a couple of years, they'd be less amenable to this.) I'm going with letters from my undergrad adviser, the professor I was an RA for in grad school, and a VP at my old company who can talk about some recent research and writing I've done. Granted, this recent work has nothing to do with sociology, but it's still statistical analysis and a large volume of writing. Fingers crossed that it works, and of course, YMMV.

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Related question: Do these folks write one letter and send it to all the places I am going to apply?

Most (I think all) schools have online applications and ways for recommenders to submit online. You basically "register" them on your application, and it sends them an email (and reminders, if necessary) with instructions on how to submit a pdf or word document of the letter. When they submit it, you get an email confirmation as well. You can send them reminders from the school so it doesn't look like you personally are bugging them. It is simple and works well. 2 of my 3 did it this way. If they do snail mail, you send them addressed and stamped envelopes for all of the schools so they just have to put in their letter and send it off.

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I gather that I should stick with the accademics and not think about those with or for which I have worked.

Simple answer, yes. Go with academics. Every single professor I have ever talked to said that it is very difficult for employers to write a recommendation that would carry any weight with the committee. This is mostly because they don't know the skills grad school requires and cannot speak to them. Even if you have to go back years, get academic recommendations. It is like this advice board...how much weight would you give to advice given to you by someone who never went through this process?

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Simple answer, yes. Go with academics

More complicated answer: go with your employer if they have a PhD. I did that, since my job involved a lot of data analysis and report writing and my boss had a DPhil, and I got into my top choice school with funding. You're smart enough to use your own judgment on your own situation, and having been in the workforce for a while, you've got a different situation from the "typical" applicant.

Related question: Do these folks write one letter and send it to all the places I am going to apply?

Check with your undergrad or grad career services folks. Where I went, the career services office will hold onto "official sealed recommendations" and send them out on your behalf. That way, recommenders only have to write and send out one rec, and then you can apply to many programs.

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  • 1 month later...

Letters should come from people that you have a positive relationship with and that are academics. Therefore, a letter from an academic that you havent contacted in a number of years will be questioned, as well as the letter from the non-academic UNLESS the letters are consistent across the board (you were the same hardworking person in the past as you are in the present, and will be in the future).

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