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biyutefulphlower

Letter of Recommendation Quandary - Should I ask my boss for a letter...?

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Hi Everyone,

I'd like some opinions on letter of recommendation trouble I'm having.  (Asking here so I can get a humanities/English Lit perspective.)  I've done a little digging around the forums, but still thought starting a new thread could be helpful.  For some quick context, I was originally planning to apply to PhD programs last year, but for a myriad of reasons decided to postpone to 2016.  I reached out to 3 letter writers last year, all of which responded to me at least once.  Two had agreed to write letters, but did encourage my decision to wait on applying.  The third, let's call him Prof. 3, sent along a series of requirements needed before he could agree to write a letter, but then never responded to my follow up question about meeting on campus.

Fast forward to now - I reached out to the same three professors again.  Two have responded enthusiastically/agreed to write strong letters and Prof. 3 has, well, not responded.  I reached out to him during the last week of October for applications due the 1st full week of December (similar to last year) and sent a follow up on Nov. 6th.  With two unanswered e-mails, do I keep bumping Prof. 3 for a letter?  I live in a different state from where I got my MA, so while I can get to the college for a face-to-face visit, it'd be a 30-1hr drive depending on traffic.  His office hours are all during the morning/afternoon (I work full time) and, since I've been out of school for a few years, it may a bit strange for me to show up unannounced.  Should I just call (which also feels a little strange)?  How many follow-ups should I send before giving up?  What do I even say at this point? :/

If I can't get a hold of Prof. 3, how much would my application be hurt by getting a non-academic recommendation?  The other professors I would even think of contacting have both retired and I don't have their contact information.  Plus, I'm pretty sure my old boss would be more than happy to write a letter for me.

Any thoughts...?

Edited by biyutefulphlower

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I think you need to leave Prof 3 alone at this point. And your application to an academic program would be hurt by a non-academic letter.

That your other two professors have retired doesn't matter. The college will have their contact information, or the professors writing you letters will. Your 3rd letter doesn't need to bring down the house (assuming one or both of the other two do). It just needs to be a solid letter from someone the committee will view as qualified to speak to your academic strengths and potential as an English scholar. That person is probably not your boss.

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I tend to agree with @ExponentialDecay . If you have exhausted the possibilities from your MA work maybe think back to your UG experience and try to come up with one prof who really stands out/influenced you? Just might be a way to expand your sphere of possibilities. Good Luck!

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Thanks to both of you for your responses.  Undergrad may be a bit hard, since I haven't keep in contact with the professors.  (It's been a little less than 10 years since I graduated.)  But, I'll reach out to the school and my professors to see if I can track the other two down.

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Just a few thoughts.  First, although a professional letter will be less helpful than an academic reference, you might still want to ask your boss just in case you aren't able to track down another professor to write your third letter in time.  I know that programs will not consider an application at all without the required number of letters.  Second, if you decide to reach out to undergrad professors, you might try to find your old papers (and especially any papers with their comments) to include with your request (along with your current SoP and writing sample).  Then, even if they don't remember you at first, they would at least have something substantive on which to comment.  Last, in reaching out to any of the other professors you are considering (and I agree with ExponentialDecay to stop pursuing the elusive third professor), you might want to mention that you thought that you had a third recommendation already lined up and it fell through, so they don't think that you just procrastinated and are now asking for a favor at the last minute.  This might make them more inclined to help.  Best of luck!

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44 minutes ago, screamingacrossthesky said:

 First, although a professional letter will be less helpful than an academic reference, you might still want to ask your boss just in case you aren't able to track down another professor to write your third letter in time.

But make sure you pursue all possibilities in trying to get that third academic recommendation. I agree with everyone else on not pursuing Prof 3 anymore.

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Funnily enough, Prof. 3 actually responded yesterday to say he's been very busy this semester (lots of classes, theses he's advising, with other letters, etc).  He said he could potentially write me a short, but positive, letter that focuses on my time in his class since it took him so long to get back to me, but wouldn't be able to read any 'up-to-date' materials.  I'm still reaching out to another professor, but since my time is short and I don't know exactly if/when I'll hear back, I asked him when he would need to hear from me in order to ensure the short letter.  Hopefully he responds to that message in the next 2 weeks...

Keep your fingers crossed for me...

Edited by biyutefulphlower

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