2 responses

  1. Rachel
    August 27, 2013

    Hi there,

    I have a quick question. I am applying to Ph.D. programs this fall, and I am trying to decide which letter writers to choose. I already have a Masters degree in a psychology-related field. I have 1 very strong letter (based on your criteria above), and 2 others that are a bit weaker (I either did research with them or took classes with them – I did not know them extremely well.). They actually sent me copies of the letters they wrote when I applied to jobs, so I know that the very strong one is extremely specific and the others are more general in most areas with some specificity around the experience I had with them in either a class or through research. They all speak very positively. I also have 3 years of work experience in a psychology-related field, and a specific person in mind that could write me a letter based on my leadership and organization skills, my ability to facilitate teams and work effectively in an organization, my attention to detail, etc. When I applied to my masters program (now 5 years ago), I also had a very strong letter from my undergraduate degree. As an undergraduate, I worked with this professor for 2 years. I took multiple classes from her, worked on several research projects in her lab, and had a good deal of responsibility for an undergraduate RA.

    Here is my question: From the perspective of someone reviewing applications, do you think it would be better to use only letters from my current work and Masters degree program, because those are my most recent experiences? Or do you think it would be appropriate for my 3rd letter to be from my undergraduate experiences? Unfortunately, none of these letters will directly relate to I/O psychology (they all involve clinical/school psychology), but I am hoping that in my personal statement, I can discuss how these experiences have led me to my current decision to pursue doctoral work in another field.

    Thank you so much for your input!
    Rachel

    • Richard N. Landers
      August 27, 2013

      I think it is a good call to use at least 2 letters from your current program. Given that, the decision is really between a person you worked with for two years as an undergraduate 5 years ago versus (I am assuming) a person you only took classes with in your Master’s program for your third letter. If that’s right, that is a tricky decision for precisely the reasons you are thinking. I would probably go with the person from your undergraduate degree since it sounds like that letter will be more specific. It would be substantially better, however, if you still had regular contact with this person and that this was emphasized in the letter. You might also see if you can submit 4 letters instead of 3 – many times, they specify “at least” 3.

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