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Hello All!

Hoping you could help me out. I have decided that I want to go back to school and pursue a Masters in Public Health. Problem is, I went to undergrad for chemical engineering and am now working in an engineering field. I had a 3.0 GPA and am relatively confident that I'll do well on the GRE (practice tests have gone well and I'm a strong test taker). However, I am concerned about LOR. I have already been out of school for 2 years now, and have another 2 years or so before I am ready financially to go back. I am planning on asking a professor that I worked with as a TA when I was an undergrad for a letter, and have been volunteering with Planned Parenthood and am considering asking the volunteer coordinator for a letter. I'm not sure what else to do though. I don't really have any strong relationships with professors, and they all taught engineering. I did really well in an unrelated class (history/women's studies) and might reach out to that professor, but at least it might show some academic progress?

I don't know, I'm kind of at a loss and I don't want to leave this off until right before I'm ready to submit applications. With 2 years or so, that gives me some time to rectify this issue and I would appreciate any suggestions or comments.

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I also had a gap between my undergrad and grad. When I applied for grad school I had been out of school for 10 years so I had very little hope that any of my professors would remember me. I did have a letter from one professor that I had gotten before I graduated but when I tried to get in touch with him I found out he had retired. A second professor who had also written one for me was now working overseas so she was pretty much out as well.

What I ended up doing was sending in letters from three people I had worked with over the last 10 years (I was working in the same field I was planning to go to grad school for). I know people say don't do that but honestly the letters from my former bosses were a much more accurate example of who I was now as a 30 year old grad candidate then the undergrad one that talked about 20 year old me. I sat down with the professionals who were writing my letters and made sure they touched on how quickly I learned new skills, whether or not I helped to develop a new process or streamline something, and my contributions to our field.

In the end the grad school accepted me and I never heard a peep about not having a professor writing a letter for me.

So in your case I'd say get the TA professor if you can and then hit up someone you're working with at Planned Parenthood (but sit down with them and make sure they address your ability to learn and contribute to the field rather than just saying you're a "good worker"). If possible you may also want to try to find some work more in the field of Public Health. Perhaps a part time job or even full time if you can manage it. That'll help you net a relevant 3rd letter and show your future grad schools that you're serious about making a career change. If you can't, you're going to have to figure out a way to make your current job fit with Public Health so you can use a letter from that company. I don't know what you do at your current job but if there's some kind of health and safety department or concerns I'd start buddying up with those in charge of that and helping them out. Then you might be able to use that person for your 3rd letter talking about your concern for the health and safety of your fellow workers and what a great help you've been with making sure everyone is safe in the workplace.

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@Casual_Bongos Thank you for your insights. I'm in a similar position as my graduation was 8 years ago and none of my professors would be able to give accurate comments about the work I've been doing. May I ask whether you are in a PhD or Masters program? I have been considering PhD programs. Does not having a LOR from academia be a problem? Most of the programs I'm applying for don't require a masters degree and I don't want to do a masters in that case. But if it is unlikely that I will be admitted without a LOR from academic professors, reading a masters program would help me getting into PhD in the future.

I'm interested in Education Psychology programs. I have a LOR from my former boss in an education institution and one form the president of an education foundation when I was doing a fellowship there. I'm struggling with my 3rd LOR. Since my undergrad was 8 years ago and my major was not education, I'm not sure if a letter from a professor is considered relevant.

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