I'm a British University student planning to apply to Political Science PhD programmes for admission in Fall 2010.
I'm getting to grips with the requirements for American graduate applications - the GRE etc - but one thing that stands out for me is the requirement to provide letters of recommendation. Can people give me any advice about these letters? Here in the UK, if we get a letter of recommendation from a professor or advisor, it tends to be extremely generic and show no personal knowledge of the candidate at all:
"I can wholeheartedly recommend Joe Bloggs, he is an excellent and hardworking student etc etc"
I am intending to apply to some very selective schools (Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Chicago amongst others) and whilst I know that those are very difficult places to get admitted, I feel that I have a chance at least. All my practice tests on the GRE have been in excess of 1550 and I am currently studying at a very well regarded UK university (Cambridge), but I'm worried that the letters of recommendation might be a weak point on my application.
I'm not a Political Science undergraduate, so if I get letters from my current professors then they will not be from people with a knowledge of political science. Should I just get letters from my professors/advisors anyway? Or from other people I know who have a political science connection of some kind? (A close friend family friend was a very senior diplomat - is it appropriate to have a letter from him?)
Apologies for the long-winded post. Any advice much appreciated!