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Author Topic: Requesting LOR from Professors Several Years Later  (Read 5863 times)

Sandrew

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Requesting LOR from Professors Several Years Later
« on: October 13, 2010, 10:37:07 AM »
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.

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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

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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

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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


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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

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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

smartandunique

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Re: Requesting LOR from Professors Several Years Later
« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2010, 02:18:10 PM »
I graduated 5 years ago. I just asked my supervisor and vice president to write a recommendation for me. It was easier.

Thane Messinger

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Re: Requesting LOR from Professors Several Years Later
« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2010, 06:25:30 PM »
Yes, academic LORs are preferred, but not if they're likely to be lukewarm . . . as a years-old contact is likely to be.  Unless there are extraordinary circumstances, it's better to have two execellent non-academic references than even one so-so academic one.

A good reference is Joyce Curll's book, Best Law School Admissions Secrets.  It's excellent.  (No, I don't get a kickback.  = :   )

Thane.

MeganEW

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Re: Requesting LOR from Professors Several Years Later
« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2010, 08:36:30 PM »
Yes, academic LORs are preferred, but not if they're likely to be lukewarm . . . as a years-old contact is likely to be.  Unless there are extraordinary circumstances, it's better to have two execellent non-academic references than even one so-so academic one.

A good reference is Joyce Curll's book, Best Law School Admissions Secrets.  It's excellent.  (No, I don't get a kickback.  = :   )

Thane.
This is reassuring.  I requested one from my favorite professor from undergrad (who moved to a school out of state the year after I graduated).  Even though we had kept in touch here and there, I felt awkward asking.  She never ended up sending it in, and I haven't followed up.  I have two strong (very specific, personal and well-written) letters from my former bosses.  I guess we'll see how my cycle goes!
Acceptances: UIUC, IUB, Fordham, W&L, OSU
WL: Notre Dame
Rejections: NYU, Northwestern

Thane Messinger

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Re: Requesting LOR from Professors Several Years Later
« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2010, 08:47:51 PM »
Yes, academic LORs are preferred, but not if they're likely to be lukewarm . . . as a years-old contact is likely to be.  Unless there are extraordinary circumstances, it's better to have two execellent non-academic references than even one so-so academic one.

A good reference is Joyce Curll's book, Best Law School Admissions Secrets.  It's excellent.  (No, I don't get a kickback.  = :   )

Thane.
This is reassuring.  I requested one from my favorite professor from undergrad (who moved to a school out of state the year after I graduated).  Even though we had kept in touch here and there, I felt awkward asking.  She never ended up sending it in, and I haven't followed up.  I have two strong (very specific, personal and well-written) letters from my former bosses.  I guess we'll see how my cycle goes!

Megan -

Good luck!  As to your prof not sending the note in, I have to relate an experience (observation, really) that still surprises me. 

Once upon a time I was asked by a student what to do about a request she had made to a colleague, who was one of the all-around students' favorites.  ( . . . along with me, of course  = :   )   

I asked politely, and was told, well, she [the prof] said "Yes" to every LOR request, but she never actually wrote the letters. 

Wow.  Be careful.  Be very, very careful.

louiebstef

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Re: Requesting LOR from Professors Several Years Later
« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2010, 08:58:33 PM »
LORS......

I will be assembling LORS from a wide spectrum of people:  (1) Professor/Dean  (2) Judge/Professor (3) CEO of former company (4) retired Admiral for whom I served as Chief of Staff (now, of course, he is an Exec with a major DOD contractor).

My thinking is that to give the admissions folks the most accurate picture of me (especially as a "non-trad"), recommendations from a mentor from each of my career(s) and latest educational effort would serve well. I have worked/learned intensively for/with each of my recommenders.

Does anyone think this strategy is weak? 
"Why be a lawyer? I'm already an ass.  Might as well go professional!"

Thane Messinger

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Re: Requesting LOR from Professors Several Years Later
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2010, 02:15:19 AM »
I will be assembling LORS from a wide spectrum of people:  (1) Professor/Dean  (2) Judge/Professor (3) CEO of former company (4) retired Admiral for whom I served as Chief of Staff (now, of course, he is an Exec with a major DOD contractor).

My thinking is that to give the admissions folks the most accurate picture of me (especially as a "non-trad"), recommendations from a mentor from each of my career(s) and latest educational effort would serve well. I have worked/learned intensively for/with each of my recommenders.

Does anyone think this strategy is weak?


Not at all.  While the majority of applicants are unlikely to have been chiefs of staff, you can be fairly well assured that your letters will receive serious consideration, especially at your reach schools.  They won't override your LSAT and, to a lesser degree, GPA, but they will be important soft factors.

The same is true for everyone: what is important is not "name" LORs, but quality LORs. 

Sandrew

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Re: Requesting LOR from Professors Several Years Later
« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2010, 08:19:49 AM »
Quote
Unless there are extraordinary circumstances, it's better to have two execellent non-academic references than even one so-so academic one.

Thank you for the responses. I'm certainly not after a so-so reference just for the sake of having an academic one.  I'll keep trying, but it's reassuring to hear that a lack of an excellent academic recommendation won't seriously hurt my chances--well, except at Yale, but my wife-to-be has no interest in New Haven, anyway.

BikePilot

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Re: Requesting LOR from Professors Several Years Later
« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2010, 10:26:04 AM »
I applied to law school 3yrs after graduating from college. I got two LORs from college professors who I'd stayed in contact with (this is the key, but sounds like its a bit late now) and one from the director of the think-tank where I spent those three years.  Worked out fine for me. I think the key is to get LORs that will be quality and clearly specifically tailored to you, not just a generic "Mr. soandso got an A in my class". 
HLS 2010