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Would my referee be annoyed if being contact too many times?


ArchieLi

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Hello all,

I have been advised to apply widely as I thrive for my PhD program and I plan to apply for about 15-18 programs. My question is, as I only have three professors writing me LOR, would they feel annoyed as they will be contact that many times and somehow become less willing to help?

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15-18 programs is a little bit more than the numbers I see (at least for my field) but it's not an overwhelmingly large amount. Maybe it is too much for other reasons (i.e. are you really finding 15-18 programs that are good fits?) but not for letter writing annoyance reasons. I'll just focus on how to work with your letter writers when you have 15-18 requests!

The amount of work to submit 18 letters is only a little bit more than 1 letter. When their graduate students apply for jobs, some people apply for dozens and dozens of jobs and that means they write dozens and dozens of letters.

However, I think they would be annoyed if they didn't know to expect 15-18 letter invitations. I would highly recommend talking to each of your letter writers in person and letting them know the following information that you are applying to this many schools. Personally, I worked closely with my letter writers (who were also my mentors) in selecting the schools to apply to and we iterated through the list a few times.

I would supply the letter writers with a neat and organized table that summarizes the key points they need to know for each letter. Because it is likely that your letter writers will write one generic letter and then cut/paste out the names of schools and programs, you should provide them with all of this info in the table. So, for each school, I supplied the deadline, the school name, the exact department name, the exact PhD program name, and the names of 2-4 professors at that school I would work with. The list was sorted by deadline. 

I also had a short summary of various numbers like GPA, GRE scores and a 2 sentence description of my research goals at the top of the page. 

Then, during the talk with each of the letter writers, we also talked about how they would like to be reminded of these deadlines. Different people will have different preferences. Most of my letter writers wanted me to group these requests in two week chunks, so I sent all the letter requests that are due Dec 1 - Dec 15 on Nov 15, and then the ones due Dec 15 to Dec 31 on Dec 1 etc. That way, they won't get 18 single requests! Also, we agreed that I would send them a reminder for any outstanding letters 2 days before the due date using the application's built-in reminder system instead of just an email since the automated reminder contains links to the right form! 

So, I think the key idea when you have this many letters is to communicate with your writers to find out what they want. Make their lives as easy as possible! A piece of paper or other note/reminder of what you talked about (like I said above) is also a good idea---don't rely on them remembering what was discussed.

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15-18 programs is a little bit more than the numbers I see (at least for my field) but it's not an overwhelmingly large amount. Maybe it is too much for other reasons (i.e. are you really finding 15-18 programs that are good fits?) but not for letter writing annoyance reasons. I'll just focus on how to work with your letter writers when you have 15-18 requests!

The amount of work to submit 18 letters is only a little bit more than 1 letter. When their graduate students apply for jobs, some people apply for dozens and dozens of jobs and that means they write dozens and dozens of letters.

However, I think they would be annoyed if they didn't know to expect 15-18 letter invitations. I would highly recommend talking to each of your letter writers in person and letting them know the following information that you are applying to this many schools. Personally, I worked closely with my letter writers (who were also my mentors) in selecting the schools to apply to and we iterated through the list a few times.

I would supply the letter writers with a neat and organized table that summarizes the key points they need to know for each letter. Because it is likely that your letter writers will write one generic letter and then cut/paste out the names of schools and programs, you should provide them with all of this info in the table. So, for each school, I supplied the deadline, the school name, the exact department name, the exact PhD program name, and the names of 2-4 professors at that school I would work with. The list was sorted by deadline. 

I also had a short summary of various numbers like GPA, GRE scores and a 2 sentence description of my research goals at the top of the page. 

Then, during the talk with each of the letter writers, we also talked about how they would like to be reminded of these deadlines. Different people will have different preferences. Most of my letter writers wanted me to group these requests in two week chunks, so I sent all the letter requests that are due Dec 1 - Dec 15 on Nov 15, and then the ones due Dec 15 to Dec 31 on Dec 1 etc. That way, they won't get 18 single requests! Also, we agreed that I would send them a reminder for any outstanding letters 2 days before the due date using the application's built-in reminder system instead of just an email since the automated reminder contains links to the right form! 

So, I think the key idea when you have this many letters is to communicate with your writers to find out what they want. Make their lives as easy as possible! A piece of paper or other note/reminder of what you talked about (like I said above) is also a good idea---don't rely on them remembering what was discussed.

Thank you so much for your response! I didn't realize how important it was to make this process easier for the letter writers. I'll follow your suggestion and make a summary of the schools I plan to apply to.

And yes 18 grad schools sounds more than a student would normally apply to, but I did find the programs of these schools related to my research interest - at least not in a far-fetched way, and I was advised more than once by US professors to apply widely.

Thank you again!

 

 

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