PDA

View Full Version : What constitutes a good LOR



IntEcon80
09-13-2007, 02:49 AM
Ok,

I agree that LOR are very important. They can get you into a top program or they can keep you out the bottom programs as well. But, what makes a LOR stand out? Maybe I am wrong, but I would not be surprised if professors use generic letters. After all, professors write several LORs every year and after awhile, they may just decide to use the same wording with a few differences here and there. So, although important, I don't think that LORs are as crutial as many make them to seem. Don't get me wrong! LORs are very important, but I think GPA and GRE scores are still far more important.

asianeconomist
09-13-2007, 03:05 AM
I would disagree.

An LOR is typically the most important predictor of 'research acumen'. Your GRE/GPA can only indicate your academic preparation but not your research ability.

Also, a LOR really puts the academic performance in perspective for ex. he compares favorably with other students who have gone onto top xx programs.

In essence, it sketches out the person behind the application.

dyiwang
09-13-2007, 03:24 AM
My personal belief is that the most important reason that I arrived at my current program is due to my unjustifiably flattering recommendations from my undergrad mentors (two of which can be classified as "legends"). So yeah, they were definitely the most important thing in my profile. My mother often jokes (and rightfully so I think) about how a moron like me can get into such a nice program, to which I would always reply "it's my moronic luck mom, cuz I'm lucky enough to have great mentors who vouched for me."

And a good LOR should essentially say that you are a student with such talent that only comes along once every 5-10 years. The appearance of someone like you should be less frequent than a full solar eclipse...etc.

IntEcon80
09-13-2007, 03:40 AM
I would disagree.

An LOR is typically the most important predictor of 'research acumen'. Your GRE/GPA can only indicate your academic preparation but not your research ability.

Also, a LOR really puts the academic performance in perspective for ex. he compares favorably with other students who have gone onto top xx programs.

In essence, it sketches out the person behind the application.

good point asianecon

IntEcon80
09-13-2007, 03:41 AM
My personal belief is that the most important reason that I arrived at my current program is due to my unjustifiably flattering recommendations from my undergrad mentors (two of which can be classified as "legends"). So yeah, they were definitely the most important thing in my profile. My mother often jokes (and rightfully so I think) about how a moron like me can get into such a nice program, to which I would always reply "it's my moronic luck mom, cuz I'm lucky enough to have great mentors who vouched for me."

And a good LOR should essentially say that you are a student with such talent that only comes along once every 5-10 years. The appearance of someone like you should be less frequent than a full solar eclipse...etc.

dyiwang,

You might think that you have the profile of a moron, but I am sure your GPA and GRE scores were competitive, not great but I am sure competitive enough.

italos
09-14-2007, 01:48 AM
I was told from an academic at Maryland that the first thing he looks at, after filtering with GRE, is the NAME who signs the letter .And only after then he reads it!He told me also that you may finish with one or no LOR if the referee is not know at the Department to be trusted! Iwill post in a different threat how UCLA ,Brown, Columbia and other top econ. Departments do selections!

Zoethor2
09-14-2007, 04:31 AM
I'm not sure I believe that assessment of Maryland's decision system is very accurate. None of the professors who wrote my letters would be known to anyone at Maryland. I came from a state school with no academic reputation, and UMD was a reach school for me, but I know my letters of recommendation were glowing and I am near certain they are a large part of the reason I was admitted to a program of that caliber. I sincerely doubt they weren't read.

italos
09-14-2007, 08:56 AM
I'm not sure I believe that assessment of Maryland's decision system is very accurate. .

I didn't say they don't read them
But I could write down the name if you want !

italos
09-14-2007, 10:55 AM
see Sample Reference Letter - Graduate School (http://jobsearch.about.com/od/referenceletters/a/samplegradref.htm) for some examples.
However, generally speaking the elements that schools are looking for are two 1) the potentialities of research and 2)teaching abilities. The first is proven by a good thesis or dissertation while the last throw marks

asquare
09-14-2007, 11:31 PM
There are a couple of papers that attempt to estimate the effect of LOR-writers' prestige on students future success. One by Grove and Wu (http://www.aeaweb.org/annual_mtg_papers/2007/0105_0800_0602.pdf) finds that having at least one well-published recommender is strongly positively associated with probability of completing the PhD (within 17 years!) and of having at least one publication, but not significantly associated with having at least one top-tier publication. Krueger and Wu had a similar finding in an earlier paper.

These papers tell us that prominence of the letter-writer matters to future success, which means that admissions committees would be logical in considering prominence of letter-writers in admissions decisions. However, it doesn't tell us anything about the content of the LORs, and IMO it is not justification for seeking letters from famous people who don't know you or your work well!

It's very hard for anyone to give really good advice about what makes a good LOR, because in general we haven't read any, even our own! Part of the game is finding a professor whom you trust to know the process well enough to write an influential LOR on your behalf, with no guidance from you.

But since the content of the LOR is not within an applicant's direct control, may I suggest focusing on what you can do that will increase your likelihood of obtaining a good LOR even without knowing specifically what is in it? I think that things like discussing your plans for graduate school, reasons for attending, preparation outside of the specific professor's courses, and of course intellectual discussions of research are often overlooked. Good grades in the professor's course only go so far; your transcript already vouches for your performance in the class and you want the LOR to add new information. Then, you have to make sure that you supply that new, positive interaction to the professor. RA work is a great way to go, but you want to make sure that the professor knows why you want to go to graduate school, etc., not just that you are good with STATA. And taking advice from your letter-writers also gives them a chance to steer you to places where they feel confident they can help you get in.