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LOR form different for experiment vs theory?

Posted: Fri Nov 21, 2014 10:11 pm
by anakou12
I know that some applications have forms with questions and checkboxes for referees to fill out in addition to uploading a letter. Do these questions ever differ depending on whether the applicant has selected an interest in experimental v.s. theoretical physics? For example "In your opinion, how does the applicant's potential in experimental physics compare to those of other students?" as opposed to the same question with experimental replaced by theoretical.

In general, do the letter writers who are added have the ability to see
1) whether the applicant has selected a preference for experimental v.s. theoretical physics?
2) any other information about the application?

In particular, I'm interested in whether this is the case as top-tier schools such as Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Caltech, and Stanford.

Re: LOR form different for experiment vs theory?

Posted: Sun Nov 23, 2014 7:33 pm
by aquirdturtle
I don't know if the form actually changes, but you should probably let your recommenders know what type of programs you are applying for. Its practically the kiss of death if you are applying for a theory position and your letter writer talks about how great an experimentalist you will make. That type of contradiction makes it look like your letter-writer doesn't really know you. I personally suffered from a similar type of mistake the first time I applied for the Goldwater scholarship, and I have had professors tell me that such a mistake is rather bad for an application.

Sorry I can't help with your specific question though.

Re: LOR form different for experiment vs theory?

Posted: Tue Nov 25, 2014 10:23 pm
by anakou12
In my applications I am explaining that I am interested in both theory and experiment. Some applications require a selection between experiment or theory so I am selecting theory for some and experiment for others. I have references from both theorists and experimentalists and they will be evaluating my potential in theoretical and experimental physics, respectively. I want to make sure that by selecting the "experiment" option I am not eliminating the opportunity for my theorist references to evaluate my potential in theory (by, for example, replacing questions about my potential as theorist with questions about my potential as an experimentalist).