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Thread: Choosing between LOR Writers

  1. #1
    Trying to make mom and pop proud
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    Choosing between LOR Writers

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    Hello all, I am beginning to think / prepare to apply to graduate programs this cycle. I think that I have a profile with a decent chance of admit for a top ten school (high grades in econ & math at a T15 undergrad, full time research assistant for 2 years, etc.) However, I am having trouble choosing my third LOR writer. Given that the other two letters will come from senior, well-published professors, which should I choose between:

    (1) A senior lecturer at the T15 undergraduate school who helped advise my thesis and regularly advises honors econ students; or (2) An associate professor at a relatively unknown university I RAed for a few years ago (have not kept close contact) who publishes frequently in top field journals with a few articles in general interest journals.

    My prior is that both letters would be of similar quality--strong but not excellent. Additionally, both potential recommenders received their PhDs from top five programs.

    I guess my main question is how disadvantageous is it to have a recommendation from a senior lecturer compared to a professor? Would that outweigh the lecturer being in a better position to make relative comparisons between me and other top students at my undergrad?

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  3. #3
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    Re: Choosing between LOR Writers

    Quote Originally Posted by dogbones View Post
    ... top schools tend to focus on an element of prestige ...
    dogbones: How do you know this?

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  5. #5
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    Re: Choosing between LOR Writers

    Quote Originally Posted by dogbones View Post
    I've heard a confession of a top school adcom member saying that admissions is rather boring because they just do some filtering by coursework and the rest is up to the letters (from other top schools, pretty much exclusively).
    The advice you have given on this thread and the claim you make about the admissions process here are inaccurate and badly informed. You are doing a disservice to other applicants by posting misinformation and repeating false claims about the admissions process on this thread and others. Many users have been very patient with you but it is long past time for someone to call this out. You have not even applied to PhD programs yourself. You have not studied or worked at a top program or a program that regularly sends applicants to top PhDs. Your advice is often misleading and it is disingenuous for you to double down on the basis of hearsay.

    To the OP: a strong letter is one that can vouch for your qualifications and potential based on specific information that is not otherwise available in your record, and by comparing you to a competitive pool. I know this because unlike dogbones, I have been on the admissions committee at the sorts of programs you are targeting, and I have written many letters of recommendations for students who have been admitted to other comparable programs. It sounds like the senior lecturer at the top program can write a strong letter for you by talking about your honors thesis and comparing you to other honors students. The other professor doesn't know as much about your ability to do independent research, does not know about your recent training or plans for graduate school, and does not have as strong a reference group to compare you to.

  6. #6
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    Re: Choosing between LOR Writers

    Quote Originally Posted by Prof View Post
    The advice you have given on this thread and the claim you make about the admissions process here are inaccurate and badly informed. You are doing a disservice to other applicants by posting misinformation and repeating false claims about the admissions process on this thread and others. Many users have been very patient with you but it is long past time for someone to call this out. You have not even applied to PhD programs yourself. You have not studied or worked at a top program or a program that regularly sends applicants to top PhDs. Your advice is often misleading and it is disingenuous for you to double down on the basis of hearsay.

    To the OP: a strong letter is one that can vouch for your qualifications and potential based on specific information that is not otherwise available in your record, and by comparing you to a competitive pool. I know this because unlike dogbones, I have been on the admissions committee at the sorts of programs you are targeting, and I have written many letters of recommendations for students who have been admitted to other comparable programs. It sounds like the senior lecturer at the top program can write a strong letter for you by talking about your honors thesis and comparing you to other honors students. The other professor doesn't know as much about your ability to do independent research, does not know about your recent training or plans for graduate school, and does not have as strong a reference group to compare you to.
    Thank you for your feedback!

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