I graduated in 2002 (undergraduate) and 2003 (graduate) and have since been working full-time (over seven years now, nearly a decade for some later undergraduate courses). I'm having some trouble getting letters of recommendation from an academic. I've gone through my transcripts and generated a list of professors who I'd like to ask. I sent my first email out this week, asking if the professor remembered me and if so, if she'd be willing to discuss the possibility of writing a letter of recommendation on my behalf. I gave some reminders of who I was (and still am) and included a recent photograph in case it jogged some memories. Before I ask another professor, I'm wondering if the community has any pointers in requesting academic letters of recommendation when the request is coming five or more years after the relationship with the professor ended.
I'm also pursuing another plan, which is to reach out to the director of my graduate program, with whom I have a good relationship and who had obtained for me seven years ago two letters of recommendation from my graduate professors for the purposes of applying for a professional fellowship. I recognize that not many other applicants have this luxury, and so I'd primarily prefer thoughts on the issue above, so that other applicants in a similar situation might benefit from your thoughts.
I'm sure this question comes up a lot, and I apologize for posing it yet again. But I'd be interested in the opinions of this forum in light of the below quotes from several Deans of Admission at well regarded law schools, which, though they vary in how understanding they seem of applicants who have been out of school for many years, are consistent in the view that academic references are preferred.
The most helpful letters to an admissions committee are from recommenders who are able to address the candidateís ability to succeed in a rigorous academic environment, be an active, engaged participant in an academic community, and show evidence of good character and integrity. Substantive letters from persons who have taught the candidate in advanced coursework are particularly welcome.
-Ken Kleinrock, NYU
Recommendation letters... are most useful when written by people who have been in a position to evaluate the candidateís work, whether academic or professional.
-Nkonye Iwerebon, Columbia
At Yale it is extremely important to have at least two academic references, even if you have been out of school for a while.
-Asha Rangappa, Yale
The LORs should be from people that truly know the applicant and has supervised their work. Also, we prefer to have at least one academic and it doesnít have to be from a well known professor. I attended a large university and didnít have a lot of contact with the professor for the class, so I got a LOR from the teaching assistant who handled the discussion section of the class and graded the exams. This individual could speak more to my improvement during the class.
Ann Perry, Chicago
While it is particularly helpful to get at least one academic recommendation letter, we recognize that can be difficult or impossible for people who have been out of school for a chunk of time.
Sarah Zearfoss, Michigan
Source of quotes: http://www.law.nyu.edu/admissions/jdadmissions/applicants/admissions_questions/recommendation_letters/index.htm