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Letters of Recommendation Dilemma

ahnendc-1ahnendc-1 Member
in General 642 karma

Here's my situation - I have been out of undergraduate for about 3 years but am fortunate to have incredible relationships with multiple professors particularly in the economic department since I was part of a special program there (did a really great independent study with one, continued to work with and successfully published a paper with another after graduation, and even went back a separate time to speak to current students about why they should be an Econ Major). I think there are probably three professors that could write particularly strong letters on my behalf from this department.

There is also another professor in the Poli Sci department that I had a very strong relationship with my first couple of years while in college (worked with him to present a paper at an academic conference) but not as much during my Junior and Senior years (just happened that I had completed all my Poli Sci classes early and ended up being more involved in the Econ Dept during the latter half of my years) and unlike my relationships with professors in the Economics Dept, I have not kept up with him.

Additionally, I worked for ~2.5 years in a professional environment and think that there are 1-2 people that I worked with in a supervisory role that would also be able/willing to write me a strong letter.

So far, I have decided that I am definitely going to ask two Economics Professors and one letter from my work experience. My question is how I should allocate a 4th letter, if at all? I don't want to overwhelm the application reader with taking on a 4th letter but I know that it would be strong.

Option 1) Additional Academic Letter (from Poli Sci)
- Pro 1: Demonstrate participation in my second major
- Pro 2: Speak about research project that presented at two academic conferences
- Con: (Potentially?) less strong than 3rd Econ letter since I have not spoken with him in quite a while, last class I took with him was in the Fall of Freshman year and probably spoke with him last during my Junior year

Option 2) Additional Academic Letter (from Econ)
- Pro: Can speak my solid work in two classes and as a research assistant outside of class
- Con 1: He's a very stoic and (I mean this in the nicest way possible) somewhat lazy individual... like all of his tests were scantrons because he didn't want to grade them lol.
- Con 2: He is also a part of the same program that my other two professors are a part of. I'm a little worried that (because the program was such a big deal) that each of the professors are going to talk about that primarily and therefore all of the letters are going to sound kind of similar and be less impactful.

Option 3) Additional Professional Experience Letter
- Pro: Emphasize work experience since graduation
- Con 1: Academic Letters > Professional Letters
- Con 2: I come from a not at all prestigious undergrad so highlighting academic involvement would definitely benefit my application

Option 4)
No forth letter

I know I'm in a great spot here but just want to make sure that I make the best decision.

What should I do?
  1. What are your thoughts?28 votes
    1. Option 1 - Pol Sci Prof
    2. Option 2 - Econ Prof
    3. Option 3 - Another Work Experience
    4. Option 4 - Just 3 letters


  • ahnendc-1ahnendc-1 Member
    642 karma

    Just want to elaborate on my being stoic is potentially a con - I think this might manifest in his writing and the letter would be somewhat flat and unconvincing.

  • 16 karma

    I am in a similar situation, don't go for a fourth. At the end of the day the letters are not going to be the most important reason you get in, ultimately all the want in a LOR is knowledge on how you are as a person. 2 academic and 1 professional is what I'm doing. I wouldn't go anymore. Btw, for my academic's my professors asked I send them previous papers written with them and my course load with them. So that they can tailor their LOR to those things and be able to specifically reference work with them. If possible see if your professors will do the same. Quality over quantity ALWAYS!

  • ahnendc-1ahnendc-1 Member
    642 karma

    Thank you @"austin.edwards1993" and everyone who voted!! Your input is very much appreciated!

  • mrowley91mrowley91 Alum Member
    203 karma

    Hey! I'm not in this particular situation but rather, have been out of school for six years, and due to my job causing me to move 4 times in 6 years, didn't keep up with my professors. That being said, I did a lot of research as to how to best approach this conundrum. I read Ann Levine's "The Law School Admissions Game" and also listen regularly to the podcast "Thinking LSAT." What I found in both was that if you're long out of school, it's best to get a professional reference because it demonstrates your most recent accomplishments. For anyone else in my situation reading this, it was almost argued against getting an academic reference because it was so long ago.

    Second, I just went through the process of getting mine for this fall, and I would highly recommend that if your recommender is 1) lazy, 2) super busy, or 3) may not remember everything you want them to talk about, just write a draft letter for them and offer it to them. Speaking with my friends in the business world, this is common practice, especially if the recommender is high up in a company. They don't have to use it, but it will certainly help spark their memory and give them something to go off of.

    Best of luck!

  • kemu8460kemu8460 Member
    29 karma

    More for my own curiosity, what made you choose to include 3 LORs instead of 2? Do you think the 2 LORs from your professors will be dramatically different/show different sides of your application?

    It makes a lot of sense to me to include 1 from a professor and 1from a professional connection, but I was under the impression that most schools tend to actually prefer 2 unless the LORs are quite different? I totally could be mistaken on this though, would be interested in hearing anyone's input on this

  • mrowley91mrowley91 Alum Member
    203 karma

    @kemu8460 I personally am following what each admissions website is directing for each law school. Almost all the law schools I'm applying to (all SoCal schools) only let you submit 2, but USC lets you submit 3, and UCI didn't have a number on their website so I'm tentatively planning on 3.

    As for plan of attack, I plan to submit one reference from my immediate superior and one from the person that was overall in charge to show two different perspectives in the same application (for those that limit it to two).

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