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Thread: Grad school recommendation letters

  1. #1
    Jul 2011
    Encinitas, CA

    Grad school recommendation letters

    Hello. I'm planning on applying for several PhD programs at the end of this year (for the 2012-13 school year). As part of the typical application requirements, I need three letters of recommendation. I'm just hoping for some advice regarding who to request letters of recommendations from.

    I graduated with a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning in 2001, and have been working as an environmental/urban planner (private sector) since then. The application web pages seem to encourage you to get all three letters from an academic source. The problem I have with that is that it's been 10 years since I was last in school (12 since undergraduate).

    So far, I've identified 2/3 people. One was my graduate advisor (who should remember me, far more so than the other professors in my program). The other is the co-owner of the company I've work for over the past 10 years (while not academic, it's a current reference).

    My problem is identifying the third reference. I could ask another former graduate school professor, but am not sure how well he'll remember me. Other options include: 1) a (now retired) owner of the company I've been working for, as he's taught some classes at university (though definitely not full time) and would give me a stellar reference; 2) agency staff (i.e., planning manager at a local agency I work with a lot), though since I work in the private sector I'm not sure that's the best option; 3) others I've worked with (in the private sector) but who aren't planners per se (e.g., legal counsel, technical sub-consultants such as traffic/air quality, etc.).

    Any thoughts and/or advice on the third choice for a reference would be greatly appreciated!


  2. #2
    Apr 2009
    Call the school. I think they will understand your situation and ask for maybe just 1 reference from an academic. I think its better to have a reference from people that know you well and your work over the last couple of years. If they don't agree then it's their loss. The last thing you want is a bland / unremarkable reference from someone that doesn't remember you that well.

    I would recommend sitting down with your grad school advisor, let him know what you've been up to those last few years.

  3. #3
    I have a question about letters of recommendations for a Masters program, figured I'd post it here instead of starting a new thread.

    How important is it that the academic recommendations comes from someone who teaches courses related to planning? Would it make sense to get a recommendation from someone who knows you better if they teach in an irrelevant field? For instance I played a sport in undergrad, and took a couple classes with my coach, would it be appropriate to use him? My initial thought is No, but just throwing it out there.

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