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External LoR Advice and Help Needed!

qq2565qq2565 17 replies8 threads Junior Member
For T20s, is it better to submit a Letter of Recommendation from someone at the same university that you are applying to, or is it better to submit a Letter of Recommendation from another university?
20 replies
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Replies to: External LoR Advice and Help Needed!

  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 6062 replies97 threads Senior Member
    edited September 23
    qq2565 wrote: »
    For T20s, is it better to submit a Letter of Recommendation from someone at the same university that you are applying to, or is it better to submit a Letter of Recommendation from another university?

    Pay close attention to the requirements of each school on your list, you can find these on their website.

    Most require a HS GC rec letter, and one or two from HS core subject teachers.

    Some colleges won't accept extra LoRs, which is what university LoRs would be. Are these from teachers you have had in DE classes, or have done research with?
    edited September 23
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  • qq2565qq2565 17 replies8 threads Junior Member
    edited September 23
    Mwfan1921 wrote: »
    qq2565 wrote: »
    For T20s, is it better to submit a Letter of Recommendation from someone at the same university that you are applying to, or is it better to submit a Letter of Recommendation from another university?

    Pay close attention to the requirements of each school on your list, you can find these on their website.

    Most require an HS GC rec letter, and one or two from HS core subject teachers.

    Some colleges won't accept extra LoRs, which is what university LoRs would be. Are these from teachers you have had in DE classes, or have done research with?

    Thank you so much for your response. I've done research with them. I think most of the universities I'm applying to allow 1 LoR. I believe my GC can take an excerpt from the other one's LoR? I couldn't find any T20s which allow 2 LoRs, at least from my list - am I missing something good?
    edited September 23
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  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 6062 replies97 threads Senior Member
    qq2565 wrote: »
    Mwfan1921 wrote: »
    qq2565 wrote: »
    For T20s, is it better to submit a Letter of Recommendation from someone at the same university that you are applying to, or is it better to submit a Letter of Recommendation from another university?

    Pay close attention to the requirements of each school on your list, you can find these on their website.

    Most require an HS GC rec letter, and one or two from HS core subject teachers.

    Some colleges won't accept extra LoRs, which is what university LoRs would be. Are these from teachers you have had in DE classes, or have done research with?

    Thank you so much for your response. I've done research with them. I think most of the universities I'm applying to allow 1 LoR. I believe my GC can take an excerpt from the other one's LoR? I couldn't find any T20s which allow 2 LoRs, at least from my list - am I missing something good?

    What schools are on your list?

    How would your GC even see external LoRs? Even if they did, I would not suggest they copy material from them, how would that be adding anything to your application? (which is the whole point of LoRs)

    You haven't really answered my initial question---why external teachers and not HS ones? Are they DE teachers?
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 30771 replies59 threads Senior Member
    Most colleges do not want external LORs or extra ones. They want to keep it a level playing field. The GC LOR is considered the most important as that person assesses a lot of students from your school over the years.

    Colleges do not look at non confidential LORS the same way as they do the blind ones for the obvious reasonS that it’s more difficult for a recommender to be candid when their comments are being monitored by the person getting the recommendation, and it also allows students to get a bunch of recs and pick.

    If you have some sterling LORs from the outside, you can give copies to your GC and let them look at them and mention high points from them. In fact, you can write out those high points on the sheet they provide you and just include the letters as reference if they choose to check it out.

    If you were that amazing at a college program, and you want to attend that college, you can ask the professor of that course if s/he’d put in a word for you at admissions. Though if you were that amazing, they may do so unbidden. I’ve known a few cases where thst has happened but it is very rare.
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  • qq2565qq2565 17 replies8 threads Junior Member
    Mwfan1921 wrote: »
    qq2565 wrote: »
    Mwfan1921 wrote: »
    qq2565 wrote: »
    For T20s, is it better to submit a Letter of Recommendation from someone at the same university that you are applying to, or is it better to submit a Letter of Recommendation from another university?

    Pay close attention to the requirements of each school on your list, you can find these on their website.

    Most require an HS GC rec letter, and one or two from HS core subject teachers.

    Some colleges won't accept extra LoRs, which is what university LoRs would be. Are these from teachers you have had in DE classes, or have done research with?

    Thank you so much for your response. I've done research with them. I think most of the universities I'm applying to allow 1 LoR. I believe my GC can take an excerpt from the other one's LoR? I couldn't find any T20s which allow 2 LoRs, at least from my list - am I missing something good?

    What schools are on your list?

    How would your GC even see external LoRs? Even if they did, I would not suggest they copy material from them, how would that be adding anything to your application? (which is the whole point of LoRs)

    You haven't really answered my initial question---why external teachers and not HS ones? Are they DE teachers?

    Sorry, I don't know what DE means? They aren't teachers. I did research with them.
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  • qq2565qq2565 17 replies8 threads Junior Member
    Most colleges do not want external LORs or extra ones. They want to keep it a level playing field. The GC LOR is considered the most important as that person assesses a lot of students from your school over the years.

    Colleges do not look at non confidential LORS the same way as they do the blind ones for the obvious reasonS that it’s more difficult for a recommender to be candid when their comments are being monitored by the person getting the recommendation, and it also allows students to get a bunch of recs and pick.

    If you have some sterling LORs from the outside, you can give copies to your GC and let them look at them and mention high points from them. In fact, you can write out those high points on the sheet they provide you and just include the letters as reference if they choose to check it out.

    If you were that amazing at a college program, and you want to attend that college, you can ask the professor of that course if s/he’d put in a word for you at admissions. Though if you were that amazing, they may do so unbidden. I’ve known a few cases where thst has happened but it is very rare.

    Would colleges not want a LoR from a professors that I did research with? Also, nobody has shared a LoR with me, so how do I indicate that it was done confidentially?
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 30771 replies59 threads Senior Member
    The LORs that are an official part of your application are to be submitted using a form that asks questions that need to be answered by your recommender. Like who they are, their relationship to you, contact info and whether the recommendation is confidential.

    Loose LORs are not officially part of your application except for in rare situations.

    These days, many high school kids do research, are mentioned in publications, have internships —“many” meaning those in the working towards highly selective college acceptance crowd. Too many for that stuff to have much merit anymore. At one time, it was rare, and therefore packed more of an impact. Reading through this forum, one comes across hundreds, more, of high schoolers doing research.

    Yes, such a LOR would pack a punch if that Professor was well regarded at a college and he personally went to bat for you. Wrote a letter AND made a personal trip to Admissions and said, “I want this amazing kid here”. Admissions gets all kinds of letters from alums , professors, celebrities saying how great kids are. Like thousands of them. Unless it gets to AO through a very personal channel, with heavy weight, it means nothing. An AO doesn’t have the Tomé to assess the research , the prof and determine whether it’s not just one of those standard good Will LORs. Gotta do a lot more to make a difference.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35854 replies404 threads Senior Member
    Standard is one LoR from the guidance counselor and then one each from two teachers who've had you in their classrooms. One really should be from a teacher in the field you hope to major in.

    The point is educators sharing with other educators. This is not like a rec for a job.

    Some colleges don't take LoRs, some limit it, etc. You do need to see what your targets say about this. And you can look at the Common App and find the "TE" or teacher eval forms, to get an idea what's asked.
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  • brantlybrantly 4390 replies79 threads Senior Member
    edited September 23
    You're going down the wrong path with this. I know it seems to you that an LOR from a university professor would be helpful, but unless it's a situation like what @cptofthehouse described above, it is not what the admissions officers want to see.

    If you're only allowed one letter (in addition to the GC letter), it should be a HS teacher who knows you well. A professor you did research with does not know how you are in the classroom.

    YOU don't have to share that your LORs were done confidentially. That's the responsibility of the letter-writer. Your teachers have done this a zillion times before. They know what to do. The letter is uploaded directly to the college via Naviance or whatever system they use.
    edited September 23
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  • 2Devils2Devils 86 replies0 threads Junior Member
    Our school's College counseling office has a process for "outside" non-teacher letters, for the schools that allow it. There is a system in place for that recommender to confidentially submit the LOR to GC and GC then submits it to the schools that allow, or uses short quotes from it in their own letter. It is just a standard part of the process, typically used if a student has extensive and long relationship w the recommender which can add to the full picture of who the kid is , etc.
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  • qq2565qq2565 17 replies8 threads Junior Member
    edited September 23
    Don't a lot of schools have Research Supplements? I know Columbia has one (https://undergrad.admissions.columbia.edu/apply/first-year/supplementary-materials).

    Also are you guys saying that universities don't really look at the Supplementary Materials part of the application? https://admissions.yale.edu/supplementary

    Is first authorship really that common? :confused:

    Re @2Devils I think my school has a similar process, but I'll check with my GC - thanks for sharing!
    Re @brantly I think for all the schools I'm applying to, I'm allowed 2 letters from HS teachers, 1 from the GC, and a research supplement or another additional supplement/LoR... Am I missing something or getting this completely wrong?
    Re @cptofthehouse What do you mean by "personal channel"? What more can I do to make my work stand out - given that it is genuine and is published? Would it make me look BAD to submit these things because so many people are doing it?
    edited September 23
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  • BKSquaredBKSquared 1785 replies8 threads Senior Member
    See this from Yale regarding supplemental materials, including recommendations. Just because a school allows it doesn't mean you should do it. Yale's position is no different than other T20's. https://admissions.yale.edu/advice-putting-together-your-application
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 30771 replies59 threads Senior Member
    If a school , whether it’s your highschool or college has a channel for your research description, LOR, go right on ahead and use it. If a school does not have any such channel, don’t, is my advice. As I stated before, it’s not like you just send the LORs; there is standard info that is requested from the reference.
    Many schools have a procedure for students to send in supplementary material. If you really feel like your research will elicit ahs and awe from the Admissions office, go on a head and send what you think is so awesome.

    Can it look BAD? Yeah, if poorly done and you have the wrong impression on how great thou art and it strikes the AOs wrong. Usually, no. It won’t make a difference most of the time unless you win the Intel or Siemans or other known national award for your work.

    By personal channel, I mean that if the professor who is writing you this rec , is known to the AO, and personally reaches out to Admissions, yes, it could make a difference. Admissions at selective colleges get thousands of letters from “important” people, and unless there is some action to differentiate your letter from the pack, it goes to the same place as most do. A simple reference letter isn’t going to do it. A visit to Admissions and a talk with the AO or a phone call could. If that professor wants you at his college, and he personally discusses this with AO, it could make a difference. A generic good reference won’t.

    I am writing this not knowing if you are possibly the Second Coming in a field of study. If you are, you have to get that message through to an AO who will be glancing through your application likely summarized on some form. Unless it’s flagged as celebrity worthy or special request from professor, it’s not likely to get much attention. Trust me, it seemed like everyone had an “in” with a reference from some donor, alum, prof, someone important when my kids were applying to college. If the “in” was that powerful, it wasn’t discussed ; it was just known. Many disappointed kids who thought being published, working on some project was going to turn the AO’s Head.

    Really, if you feel it’s a game changer for you and you are going to always wonder; it’s going to bother you if you don’t send the info to AO, go on ahead.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35854 replies404 threads Senior Member
    edited September 24
    Have we made it clear that adcoms are under zero obligation to read your research? Adcoms are not subject specialists, capable of interpreting this quality, nor do they have time. And you don't get an admit on as simple a basis as some good research, even if published. They're building more than that in their communities.

    IF, and only IF, the rest of your app is everything they want (and it's your responsibility to understyand what each target seeks in its students,) then they might send it to a cooperative faculty member for a look-see.

    If your research mentor calls admissions and says you're the greatest, that's personal contact. It happens. But rarely. Admissions would record it in your file and continue on with their same quest for the right kids for the class.

    You can mention it, sure. You can include a very brief (a few lines) abstract in Addl Info. But the quality of your full app and supp is still what matters.

    edited September 24
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  • qq2565qq2565 17 replies8 threads Junior Member
    If a school , whether it’s your highschool or college has a channel for your research description, LOR, go right on ahead and use it. If a school does not have any such channel, don’t, is my advice. As I stated before, it’s not like you just send the LORs; there is standard info that is requested from the reference.
    Many schools have a procedure for students to send in supplementary material. If you really feel like your research will elicit ahs and awe from the Admissions office, go on a head and send what you think is so awesome.

    Can it look BAD? Yeah, if poorly done and you have the wrong impression on how great thou art and it strikes the AOs wrong. Usually, no. It won’t make a difference most of the time unless you win the Intel or Siemans or other known national award for your work.

    By personal channel, I mean that if the professor who is writing you this rec , is known to the AO, and personally reaches out to Admissions, yes, it could make a difference. Admissions at selective colleges get thousands of letters from “important” people, and unless there is some action to differentiate your letter from the pack, it goes to the same place as most do. A simple reference letter isn’t going to do it. A visit to Admissions and a talk with the AO or a phone call could. If that professor wants you at his college, and he personally discusses this with AO, it could make a difference. A generic good reference won’t.

    I am writing this not knowing if you are possibly the Second Coming in a field of study. If you are, you have to get that message through to an AO who will be glancing through your application likely summarized on some form. Unless it’s flagged as celebrity worthy or special request from professor, it’s not likely to get much attention. Trust me, it seemed like everyone had an “in” with a reference from some donor, alum, prof, someone important when my kids were applying to college. If the “in” was that powerful, it wasn’t discussed ; it was just known. Many disappointed kids who thought being published, working on some project was going to turn the AO’s Head.

    Really, if you feel it’s a game changer for you and you are going to always wonder; it’s going to bother you if you don’t send the info to AO, go on ahead.

    How would AOs know who the professor is without being experts in the subject matter? I guess you guys are sort of saying that the actual work (the EC) matters more than the LoR?

    Re @lookingforward How know if the rest of my application appeals to a school? Do you mean within the exam ranges and GPA ranges?
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35854 replies404 threads Senior Member
    Adcoms know faculty.
    I'm assuming you want stem. T20s usually have a stem ctontact who'll also review select promising apps. A handful.

    Personal contact is more about the prof calling admissions.


    When speaking of T20 schools, it's the applicant's responsibility to learn as much about the college, get an idea of what it seeks. What rounding. Depth and breadth. Attitude, energy and more.

    And to understand what holistic is. It not just being in stats ranges. And/or research. They'll read your whole app, looking for their idea of match.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 30771 replies59 threads Senior Member
    I think part of what many of us are telling you is that a lot of AIs aren’t going to know or care who wrote a letter of recommendation or the scope of your research. If it’s that great, your GC should be mentioning it or if it’s truly earth shaking, the AO might know because many of them keep tabs on these things. They also know the professors at their college.

    The thing is, you don’t just send in a LOR. Anyone can write one and send it. For it to be considered part of the application , it is so submitted. You can ask that professor if he’ll do that for you, not just email or write a letter saying how great you are. The teacher and school LORs are accompanied by information as to who they are and info to verify it it’s easy to write a letter of shoot an email over to admissions for someone. Heck, DH snd I are asked every year if we’d do that for our alma maters. As are alums from nearly any school, especially for selective schools. So AOs get tons of these notes. But if it’s channeled through the Common Application it supplement that a school provides, it’s a whole other story. Unsolicited material to Admissions often gets little attention.

    Now, we are all saying this when you could be the next a Elon Musk or Bill Gates or whoever. Perhaps your research is stupendous and you drove it. If that’s the case, the professor should be more than happy to personally approach admissions at his school and have you on his team. Something like that could be a game changer. Yes, it happens, but rarely. If you are one of those rarities, that research prof would be glad to personally take your case to Admissions. But to another school? Ummm...you can talk to the prof. Probably will tell you that s/he doesn’t have a whole lot of clout there, but here’s a letter and you figure out how to submit it.

    Also, sometimes serendipity comes into the picture and any essay, EC , subject, research can hit an AI the right (or wrong way). One of mine lucked out with a terrible essay on a boring subject more like a research paper that hit his AO perfectly—so perfectly that he got a handwritten comment about it on his acceptance letter. These things can and do happen.

    So give it your best, but don’t count on it. Research safety schools so that you have good strong choices in that department. But , go on ahead and play the lottery.
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  • brantlybrantly 4390 replies79 threads Senior Member
    Admissions officers have an expression, tongue-in-check, but based on experience: The thicker the file, the thicker the student.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35854 replies404 threads Senior Member
    ^Doesn't mean you edit out valid experiences. OP will need to apply the right sort of savvy.

    Research is a valid experience.
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  • brantlybrantly 4390 replies79 threads Senior Member
    ^Doesn't mean you edit out valid experiences. OP will need to apply the right sort of savvy.

    Research is a valid experience.

    Of course. But applicants get in trouble when they add more than what's asked for.
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