1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Letters of Recommendation for Non-Traditional Student

  1. May 6, 2014 #1


    User Avatar

    Like the title states, I'm curious about letters of recommendation for non-traditional students. I'm finally due to finish my degree (BS in CS / Minor in Math) after approximately eight years. It took me so long to get my degree due to military service. I went to an online school (UMUC...not the best I know) and didn't take the same professor more than twice, so I don't really have the same relationships as a traditional, brick-and-mortar student.

    Since there aren't any professors that "truly" know me, what's the next best option? A professor that only "barely" knows me? Work supervisors? Is this something I can overcome with my statement of purpose / resume?

    Any help is greatly appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 6, 2014 #2
    What is your letter for? A graduate program I assume, but what kind? Depending on what the program is about non-academic letter writers may be satisfactory enough to an admissions committee. Did your work supervisors supervise you in any type of technical/CS/math regard?
  4. May 7, 2014 #3
    You can:

    Ask a supervisor or employer to write on your behalf. Given that most graduate applications require three letters of recommendation, you may need to look beyond faculty for your letters. A supervisor can write about your work ethic, enthusiasm, maturity, and life experience. The trick is ensuring that your referee understands what graduate admissions committees are looking for in applicants. Provide your referee with all the information he or she needs to write an excellent letter. Include a description of your work-related experiences, why you wish to attend graduate school, your skills and abilities -- as well as examples of how your current work demonstrates those skills and abilities. In other words, consider exactly what you'd like the letter to say, then provide your supervisor with everything he or she needs to write that letter. Provide phrases and paragraphs that contain important material and examples illustrating your capacities; this can help your supervisor frame the task and his or her evaluation. It can also subtly guide your letter writer; however, do not expect your supervisor to simply copy your work. By helping - providing detailed information and guidance - you can influence your letter by making it easy for your supervisor.

    Enroll in a class. Before applying to graduate school, try taking a few classes, either at the undergraduate level if you're entering a new field or at the graduate level. Excel in those classes and let your professors get to know you. If they're doing research in your area of interest, volunteer to help. Letters from faculty who know you now will help your application immensely.
  5. May 7, 2014 #4

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    True, but not as useful to a committee as someone who went to graduate school themselves saying that this person is a good fit. You really want someone who understands the question writing a rec.
  6. May 7, 2014 #5


    User Avatar

    Thanks for the words thus far.

    ModusPwned, it is a letter for graduate school. Sorry I wasn't more clear in my initial post. My primary job involves a lot of critical thinking, math, and some limited programming (VBA).

    Yellowflash and Vanadium, two of the writers I have in mind have both been through graduate school...one recently, if that matters (negatively or positively) and the other is now an instructor at one of the US military academies. Like one of you mentioned, I've been thinking about taking a few graduate courses under a graduate non-matriculated status if a school I'm interested in allows it. Are recommendation letters usually required to apply for this status?

    I'm hoping my statement of purpose, resume, etc. will paint a decent picture as to why its taken me so long to get my degree and don't have a strong relationship with any past professors.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook