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Thread: How to: Letter writers contacting adcoms etc

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    How to: Letter writers contacting adcoms etc

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    For how much I've heard that admissions can be affected by letter writers leveraging connections with colleagues on adcoms, I have no idea how this works in practice, or if there is a role in all this for the applicant. I suspect other applicants find the process similarly opaque.

    An example on context, in this wonderful thread I lurked ( http://www.urch.com/forums/phd-econo...s-process.html ), @startz and @Kaysa offer some very useful, candid opinions on the admissions process, and cite the importance of adcom members knowing an applicant's reference.

    I have two questions on this process, hoping to get some first- or second-hand accounts:
    (1) Where in the process does the whole personal connection thing tend to factor in? @Kaysa suggests profs on adcoms may call letter writers they know. Is it common for writers to directly ring up a friend on an adcom?
    (2) Does the applicant need to play a role in any of this? For example, if writers do tend to ring up their colleagues, is it the applicant's job to nudge the writer in that direction and/or signal clearly which program(s) the applicant really would love the help with? What time in the application/admissions process makes most sense to do this?

    Thanks!

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    Re: How to: Letter writers contacting adcoms etc

    Kaysa is right for the most part.

    You can ask if they can make calls but if they know the game well enough they probably will do so anyways. I never knew about this (and never asked) but later found out my letter writers were doing the same -- both junior and senior.

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    Re: How to: Letter writers contacting adcoms etc

    I would recommend against openly asking someone to make a call for you. A more tactful opening is available when you are discussing what schools you should apply to. During this process it is very easy to casually slip into the conversation "Hey, do you know anyone at these institutions?" or "Do you know anyone at any good institutions that might be able to help?". This naturally gets the adviser thinking about using their connections to help you without appearing too pushy.

    I wouldn't recommend doing anything beyond this. At this point it is up to your adviser to do what they should do. As Zubrus said, most people who know game are going to do all of this for you. However, every now and then you will be surprised who does and doesn't do this. The above conversation can help avoid any potential pitfalls.

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    Re: How to: Letter writers contacting adcoms etc

    I see. I'm applying this cycle and *sort of* had this type of conversation earlier, so I'll trust my writers can take it from here.

    Appreciate the insight!

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    Re: How to: Letter writers contacting adcoms etc

    Quote Originally Posted by jjrousseau View Post
    For how much I've heard that admissions can be affected by letter writers leveraging connections with colleagues on adcoms, I have no idea how this works in practice, or if there is a role in all this for the applicant. I suspect other applicants find the process similarly opaque.

    An example on context, in this wonderful thread I lurked ( http://www.urch.com/forums/phd-econo...s-process.html ), @startz and @Kaysa offer some very useful, candid opinions on the admissions process, and cite the importance of adcom members knowing an applicant's reference.

    I have two questions on this process, hoping to get some first- or second-hand accounts:
    (1) Where in the process does the whole personal connection thing tend to factor in? @Kaysa suggests profs on adcoms may call letter writers they know. Is it common for writers to directly ring up a friend on an adcom?
    (2) Does the applicant need to play a role in any of this? For example, if writers do tend to ring up their colleagues, is it the applicant's job to nudge the writer in that direction and/or signal clearly which program(s) the applicant really would love the help with? What time in the application/admissions process makes most sense to do this?

    Thanks!
    When we review applications, letters from people who have a history of placing students in graduate school carry more weight. Whether we have a personal connection is less important, though I do have a better sense of the judgment (for better or worse) of people who I know well. At best, personal connections may help get your application noticed, but it is unlikely to have much of an effect on admissions. I wouldn't worry about it.

    I also wouldn't involve yourself in this process. Let your letter writers do what they think is appropriate.

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    Re: How to: Letter writers contacting adcoms etc

    It depends on the writer's personality or network. I had one writer who insisted on making calls for me, then practically promised me an admit to one program before the application was submitted. I had another writer who said he didn't make calls, even though I was closer to him and likely had a stronger letter from him.

    It might be pertinent that the first professor was American (Jewish), while the latter was foreign-born. There's some truth to the stereotype that American/Jewish academics are proactive about networking while foreign-born academics tend to have relatively insular academic lives, and they may also be more reluctant to use "soft" influence for fear of being seen as corrupt.

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    Re: How to: Letter writers contacting adcoms etc

    Quote Originally Posted by chateauheart View Post
    It depends on the writer's personality or network. I had one writer who insisted on making calls for me, then practically promised me an admit to one program before the application was submitted. I had another writer who said he didn't make calls, even though I was closer to him and likely had a stronger letter from him.

    It might be pertinent that the first professor was American (Jewish), while the latter was foreign-born. There's some truth to the stereotype that American/Jewish academics are proactive about networking while foreign-born academics tend to have relatively insular academic lives, and they may also be more reluctant to use "soft" influence for fear of being seen as corrupt.
    Wow. I have not been active in this forum in a while, but I cannot let this comment pass without notice. A professorís religion has absolutely no bearing on the situation and to suggest otherwise is to perpetuate harmful stereotypes and anti Semitism. I am disappointed in this forum and in the incredibly poor taste and judgement of someone whose posts have sometimes been helpful.

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