3rd rec letter for older applicant

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3rd rec letter for older applicant

Postby Astro-K » Mon Apr 19, 2010 1:39 am

So, 3 years after graduating and several years in the "real world," I've decided to finally apply to grad schools. I know it's early in the process to be thinking about this, but I'm trying to figure out who to ask for rec letters. My first two are easy--the first is my main research adviser, who I worked with for two years and did my senior thesis with; the other is my REU adviser, with whom I have a 2nd-author publication in a respected journal. I've let both know I'll be submitting applications in the fall and both say they'll be "very happy" to write "strong" recs for me.

My problem is with my third rec letter. I have a couple not-so-great possibilities, and this is complicated by the fact that I haven't kept in touch with these more tangential profs. The first option is a professor I took a class with, in which I did very well, but otherwise haven't had much contact with (even when I was in school). He wrote some rec letters when I was applying to REUs, but I feel like his contribution doesn't make as much sense this long after graduation.

My other option is my major academic adviser--I never took any classes with him, but he was in the same research group I was a part of, and I feel that he could give a "big picture" take on me, especially if I provide some supporting documentation. He's also got a slightly bigger name in the field.

Does anyone else have any experience with this situation? Any ideas? I've read through most of the threads in this sub-forum and this doesn't seem to have been discussed before.

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Re: 3rd rec letter for older applicant

Postby nathan12343 » Mon Apr 19, 2010 3:27 am

What about a 'real-world' boss? I think it would help to include some perspective on what you've been doing the past few years, particularly if there's any cross-talk between the fields.

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Re: 3rd rec letter for older applicant

Postby mobytish » Mon Apr 19, 2010 6:42 am

I can definitely speak to this topic, since I've been out of college for three years (I'm going to grad school this coming fall).

Depending on what you've been doing since college, I would definitely say getting a letter from your employer would be good. I wasn't able to do this because my employer actually had a policy that no one was allowed to receive letters of recommendation for any reason (they got sued once). Here's who I asked:

- My advisor from undergrad; I also did research and my senior project in his lab and participated in a summer internship under his direction
- The professor with whom I took most of my undergrad classes (small department); we didn't get along during my freshman year, but I got better after that and I always did extremely well in his classes
- A professor who was hired on during my senior year (my last semester); I took one class with her and was one of the top performers. My department was so small, I really didn't have any other options (there were a few professors I'd never really interacted with and one with whom I didn't get along at all)

I assumed only the first of these would be a strong letter, but somehow the rest came through for me because I got accepted everywhere I applied (nowhere exciting for most people on these boards).

For you, either of the options you listed sounds good. I'd just consider which one knew you better/longer and which one would write a more positive letter.

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Re: 3rd rec letter for older applicant

Postby joeleitz » Mon Apr 19, 2010 7:03 pm

I will 2nd (3rd?) the letter from your boss. Nothing like proof that you work hard and succeed in related work!

Good luck! ;)

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Re: 3rd rec letter for older applicant

Postby Astro-K » Thu Apr 22, 2010 12:57 am

Thanks everyone! Unfortunately, I'm not working in a related field (I do tech support at a software company), and, honestly, though my boss is great and loves my work, he isn't much of a writer (he's kind of notorious for confusing emails), so I don't think that'll work for my situation. Also, I haven't yet told them I'll be quitting in a year! I might also just check with my undergrad adviser and see what he recommends, since he knows both of my other possibilities.

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