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Letter of Recomendation from Prof. How important?


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I'm in my second year of university, and I'm seriously considering of moving on to Graduate school. I realise that you need a letter of recomendation, and to be honest, i'm not really sure where to begin with that.

 

Some friends have been psyching me out on how letter of recomendations are key to getting accepted into grad school, and for that, you need to really get to know your professors. How important is this? Should I start developping relations now? I'm worried because i'm not the most talkative person, and I'm not the kind of student that would just drop by the professor's office to talk about today's lecture.

 

How should I go about this? Any personal experiences?

 

Thanks

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you will need at least 3 letters. yes, it is very important.

 

if you want to go to graduate school, try to get a research position or TAship with one of the professors. that way they get to know you well. also, go to office hours and ask questions.

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I agree with annie. Letters of recommendations from professors are very important to have for grad school. I'm in the same boat as you in terms of not being very talkative with my professors but out of all the professors I had so far in school, there are some that seem easier to talk to or relate to. Weed those professors out in terms of trying to find a recommendation prospects. Also, try networking within your college or try to work with different professors on research projects or jobs in order for them to get to know you more than on a name by name basis.

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Salicia has given you some very good advice about how to "weed out" the easy to talk to professors. I, too, am pretty quiet and introverted, so when it came time to apply to grad. school, I really struggled with who to ask for letters of recommendation.

 

In the end, I asked my academic advisor, just because I'd known him all through college and had taken a class with him; for the others, I asked a professor that I'd only taken one class with, but he and I sorted of bonded; the final professor, I took two classes from and she advised me on a paper that I presented at a national research conference.

 

But, wait, I know it might seem like I had a great relationship with these professors, but in reality, it was pretty cursory. You don't have to become a member of a professor's family or anything, but it is important to: 1) do well in your major classes and, 2) make an effort to make sure your profs know who you are.

 

If you're a good student, half the work is out of the way, already. For my part, I went to a small university, so office hours and outside of class meetings were par for the course, so the professors kinda did all of the "getting to know you" work for us. Then again, I also took it upon myself to participate in academic programs (like the conference I attended); but I also wish I'd done more. If there's a club related to your major at your school, check it out and possibly join--generally, there's a faculty advisor for that sort of thing, which is a good way to get to know a prof. outside of class with less pressure on you personally.

 

Otherwise, if you have questions about your class or course, make an effort to drop by your professor's office hours, rather than sending them an e-mail. The goal is to stand out from the crowd and make their job easier when it comes time to write those letters.

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Thanks for the input!

 

The geography department at my school is small, so its pretty tight knit. Do profs get offended if it seemed like a student arbitrarily picked him/her to request a letter?

 

How many grad schools did you (YabbaDabba, or anyone who's in grad school) apply to?

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Thanks for the input!

 

The geography department at my school is small, so its pretty tight knit. Do profs get offended if it seemed like a student arbitrarily picked him/her to request a letter?

 

How many grad schools did you (YabbaDabba, or anyone who's in grad school) apply to?

 

To answer your first question, I'm not sure but I do have some tips for you in terms of your department. The department that I'm currently housed in is small and close knit as well and they like to host seminars and departmental parties. There's one way you can get a professor to get to know you.

 

I haven't applied to grad schools yet (Still a little bit too early) but I have five that I'm interested in. With grad schools, it's more of what you want to do in your career field and less of the kind of reputation that a school has. If a grad school has something that you are interested in doing during your grad school career, check them out.

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I don't think the profs would be interested in seeing how chatty you are with them between classes but rather the type of grades and work you produce during class. If I were you I'd focus on being attentive and participative during lecture/class hours and any prof would be more than willing to write you a good ref letter.

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^^^ true, the grades are important. but it's good if they know you personally. like from working in their lab, or being their research assistant or something of that nature. otherwise, they can't write too much on your letter of rec besides, 'xxxx got an A in my class and wrote an excellent final paper.' especially if you are in a class with 300 people, how is the prof going to know you from a hole in the wall?

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I don't think the profs would be interested in seeing how chatty you are with them between classes but rather the type of grades and work you produce during class. If I were you I'd focus on being attentive and participative during lecture/class hours and any prof would be more than willing to write you a good ref letter.

 

I am a professor, and I will say that your interaction with the prof beyond just doing your homework matters a lot. A professor is in charge of many, many students; it's hard to say much about someone who just got an "A" beyond "this student did well and got an A." The best bet is to do summer research or something and get to know a few professors really well somehow.

 

By the way I am a prof and a super-introvert too. I know how it is and how hard this whole letter deal can be. That works too...find an introverted prof who has been there.

 

To answer your earlier question, no, I do not get offended when anyone asks me for a letter.

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Thanks for the input!

 

The geography department at my school is small, so its pretty tight knit. Do profs get offended if it seemed like a student arbitrarily picked him/her to request a letter?

 

How many grad schools did you (YabbaDabba, or anyone who's in grad school) apply to?

 

I applied to four programs, and was accepted to all of them. Personally, I wouldn't worry too much about how many programs you'll apply to. My "final" number kept changing over time. After weeding out programs in the beginning, I narrowed my list down to about 10, then hemmed and hawed for the next 5-6 months, until I got down to the 4 I applied to.

 

Even now, over halfway through my first year of grad. school, I still regret not applying to two other programs. So, if you can afford it, I say apply to as many programs as you're interested in. I'm all for options, whenever possible.

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Most grad schools require at least two, and most likely three, Letters of Recommendation. At least one of them should come either from a Dean or Head of the Department. I knew this going in and so cultivated relationships with these people. I made sure they knew who I was! I was one's TA, I was a reader for another, and I knew the Dean of Education very well as I had taken three classes with him. You have to do this, you can just walk in their offices and ask for one. They have to know you very well. Do you know any profs well enough to say "Hi" as you pass each other one campus? Have you graded papers or prepped students for exams for any of them? I know they don't tell you this stuff, but it should have been done before now. I applied to one, private, grad school and got in without any problem. Can you think of any professors who admire you or like your style? Grades count, so if you have good grades, maybe they will write the letter.

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I would avoid forcing conversation. Don't go up to a random professor and say, "Soooo...how bout that new issue of Biochemistry Today... those were some big nucleotide chains, huh?". You don't want your direction to be about forming a relationship, but rather you want the relationship to be a side effect of your direction.

 

If you're introverted, come up with some of your own independent projects to work on. Create them yourself and see where it takes you. Then you can go to a professor for advice when you get stuck or when something isn't going as you hoped. They'll see you're working on your own thing and that will show you have true interest and passion for the subject. The interaction will help form a relationship.

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