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papercranes

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boring
« on: June 20, 2007, 12:19:50 AM »
I'm a bit concerned about my LOR. I can get one from my volunteer work, one from a prof, but both will be boring/uninspiring. Nothing BAD, they like me, but nothing astonishing.

Also, a prof who would have been great (worked really closely with him) died two years ago.

How bad is it to have pretty vague LOR?
university of southern california 2011

stsherri

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Re: boring
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2007, 12:33:46 AM »
Not especially bad, I think.  Some adcomms go as far as saying that they find LOR's to be irrelevant (I think I've read that GW's dean of admissions holds this view), but most assign them only marginal importance, at best.  Not to say that it can't be important or that you shouldn't get the best recs possible, but I think it may be fair to say that you stand to lose more than you stand to gain from the LOR's.  That is, a great letter is less likely to get you in than a poor letter is likely to knock you out (and by "poor" I don't mean "boring"... I mean when you do not really get a strong endorsement).  But this is only my intuition.

For decent info on LOR's, check out Anna Ivey's book "Ivey's Guide to Law School Admissions."
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Ilovecheese

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Re: boring
« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2007, 12:35:50 PM »
I'm a bit concerned about my LOR. I can get one from my volunteer work, one from a prof, but both will be boring/uninspiring. Nothing BAD, they like me, but nothing astonishing.

Also, a prof who would have been great (worked really closely with him) died two years ago.

How bad is it to have pretty vague LOR?

vagues is very bad. Anna Ivey wrote in her book that often times vague is interpreted as faint praise, meaning that your rec says you are a good student, but not really great. Maybe, you should give your professor your works, so when they say, he has a critical mind they'll be able to back that up.

stsherri

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Re: boring
« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2007, 09:39:23 PM »
My prof knows my work (particularly a piece I published) but I can't imagine she's going to really RAVE about me in any way.

I imagine you have to be really extraordinary to get a great letter

Or be liked extrordinarily well.  Ilovecheese is right that a "vague" letter might be damaging, but a solid letter needn't say things like "papercranes was the best student I've ever had" (although that would be nice) and most letters are boring.  Is it possible that you are too modest to recognize the extent to which your prof might extoll your virtues?  Perhaps they think more of you than you know.  Maybe you could try to get a feel for your prof's opinion of you.  Be honest with him/her, and let them know how important this recommendation is and that you want to be very sure to select the right individual to appraise your abilities.

Really, if you are concerned about this element of your app, pick up Ivey's book.  I checked it out free at a local library.  She explains how to avoid the "faint praise" Ilovecheese mentioned. 
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