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Question about recommendations

  1. Jan 17, 2008 #1
    I'm applying to graduate school for physics and am wondering what to do about recommendations.

    It has been more than 10 years since I received my undergraduate degrees in math and physics and since then I've bounced around between the military, writing software, and doing system administration.

    Do the recommendations need to be from academics sources or can I have my most recent employers write them?

    If they must be from former teachers is it acceptable to request them from professors from long ago?

    Any help would be appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 19, 2008 #2
    They usually have to be from academic sources. If you ever did any kind of undergraduate research, the supervisor would be the person to ask for a reference. Although it may be possible to get references from former profs, ten years is a long time, and if they cannot recall who you are, then they won't have anything to say.

    Getting reference letters is one tough process if you never did any academic research, and I'm glad I got it over with.

    -Good luck.
  4. Mar 19, 2008 #3

    Andy Resnick

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    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    I have seen recommendations from nearly every source- academic, summer job, etc.

    I would suggest you try and get at least one recommendation from one of your undergraduate professors, which may not be easy given the time lag. But, those letters are the easiest to place into an academic context (meaning the qualities they are evaluating you on are academic in nature, not industrial/military). That is, a reference saying you are a great employee is fine, but being a great employee requires different skills than being a great student.

    However, it's also important to have a recommendation from someone who knows you more recently as well. You used the phrase "bounced around..", do you have any (professional) reference who has known you for more than a few years? If you have a few candidates, make sure they understand to emphasize things like 'learning new skills', 'can train others', etc. etc.
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