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Letters of Recommendation

  1. Oct 30, 2007 #1
    It's that time of year again when everyone is applying to college/grad school! I myself am wrapping up my applications to the 3 uni's I have chosen to pursue attending. I'm graduating with honors, have a decent GRE and so on - all the things that look good on paper - but I am really getting stuck on letters of recommendation.

    The uni's I am applying to ask for three letters from professors from your undergrad institution. I've gotten to know a couple professors, and I currently work with one who is supervising my honors thesis, and another I intend to work this spring/summer for, but the third one is a real sticking point, and I'm stressing quite a bit over who to ask to write my third recommendation letter.

    I have a person in mind, but it's been a semester since I took a class with him. I went to his office hours a few times, and we've talked in the hallways some since, but I wonder what you all believe is an acceptable standard of familiarity before you can ask someone to write a recommendation? On one hand, I really want to go to grad school and I think his recommendation would be good, but on the other hand I really don't want to bug him - though I know him to be really amicable.

    What are your thoughts? How should I approach the issue? My current plan is to drop by his office this week, ask him if he could vouch for me, and supply him with a resume and such since it's been awhile. Thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 1, 2007 #2
    Doesn't your school have required undergrad research under a professor? We have to take 3 credits of it, ideally 1 per quarter with a different prof. This is to make sure you make some contacts...

    Seems like you're SOL, so your only choice is to contact that guy.

    Also, how are you going to get Guy #2 to write you a letter if you haven't worked for him yet?
  4. Nov 1, 2007 #3
    Of course just ask him! Writing recommendations is part of every professor's job, and he certainly won't be bothered or insulted. If he doesn't remember you or otherwise seems unwilling, he'll let you know and then you should just drop it. I knew someone who insisted once... and the professor *did* write him a letter, but...
  5. Nov 1, 2007 #4
    yeah, it's part of their job description
  6. Nov 1, 2007 #5
    No, in fact it's fairly rare at my school. ~5-10% of my class of 5500 do any form of research, I'd say.

    I know him already and am currently taking a grad class with him that I'm acing. He's not exactly my advisor, but he definitely knows my positive qualities.

    I do feel like I am SoL to an extent, but only because I regret not networking a bit better and getting to know my professors outside of lecture. All of the ones I have gotten to know more or less do some really neat things that they don't mention at all in class. Thanks for the words of encouragement, Jim Kata/TMFKAN64.
  7. Nov 1, 2007 #6
    I meant out of the physics people. It's a requirement for the physics BS here. Can't speak for other degrees.

    Cool. Having taken a grad course will be a bonus.

    I'm at the opposite end at the moment. I'm taking an E&M course and my prof who is really into biophysics always tries to stick his pet projects into the course work. "Okay, so this is E&M. Now... what if we add in a heat bath?" Stuff like that... bleah...

    But I know what you are saying. It sounds like they don't emphasize getting to know your professors enough at schools. They actually added a 1-credit course at my school that is an overview of what all of the physics profs are doing research on.
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