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I will be applying for MS (computer science) in US schools. I am from a rural part of India where lecturers (who will be writing letter of recommendations) in my college still don't have official email id (e.g. name@mycollege.edu) and they use commercial services (e.g. gmail or yahoo mail).

What shall I do? Will it harm my application? I think so, because I doubt how it can be evaluated as not-fake.

My other option would be not to consider this LOR at all. I am currently working under a professor in one of the top institutes of India and I can get a recommendation letter from the professor. But I am working under him from past 6 months. How does this weigh against the LOR of my bachelor school lecturer who knows me for 4 years ?

To add more details, I completed my bachelors 3 years ago, so will this LOR be any of help since the lecturer only knows how I was 3 years ago, but not now ?

  • Is the question about your professors sending recommendation letters from unofficial email accounts, or is it about you applying to a MSc degree from an unofficial email account? – dgraziotin Nov 4 '13 at 10:43
  • I should have been more clear, apologies. It's about my professors sending recommendations from unofficial email id – avi Nov 4 '13 at 11:19
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    If the letters "look" official-e.g., there is a proper letterhead, there is a signature, etc.-I do not see any problems in them being sent from personal email accounts. However, in my case I have always had to enclose the recommendation letters in my applications. Therefore, I have always delivered my recommendation letters instead of my mentors.What about you sending the recommendation letters instead of them? Would that work? – dgraziotin Nov 4 '13 at 12:21
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    Usually while filling the application form we have to provide email addresses of our recommenders. They will recieve an email from grad school and will be asked to submit their letter of recommendations. So if I am not wrong, it will be plain text and I don't think they can 'upload' the document/PDF which includes letter head and their signature. And also most of universities require letters to be submitted online only, so I cannot mail them via post. – avi Nov 4 '13 at 12:34
  • Glad to see that there exists a serious process in delivering recommendation letters. In your case, excluding that they can employ plain old snail mail or faxes, the best thing you can do is to ensure that the process is as smooth as possible. Maybe you could clarify this absence of "official" email accounts to the grad schools secretary/evaluation committee. – dgraziotin Nov 4 '13 at 12:52
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“Will it harm my application?” — Maybe, maybe not… it depends on the mindset of the persons who will review the application. The likelihood that it impacts negatively your application is probably not very high (there are more people than you think, even in non-rural non-Indian areas, who use commercial email accounts rather than institutional ones).

However, you are right there is some slight risk: there have been recent cases of people using faking email accounts for other researchers, e.g. in order to increase their chances in peer review. Because these cases have been publicized recently, people may be more wary of non-institutional addresses.

But more to the point: what can you do? — Not much. If the format of the letter is free, ask your letter writers to use official letterhead from their institution… Otherwise, try and see if your letter writers are listed on their institution's public pages, at least, with their email address: that way, the person receiving the application will be able (if he wants to) to check their identity.

  • Thanks for the response. My college website only lists professors, without mentioning their email ids. (Just for the sake of curiosity I am asking, even if they did, the admissions committee would actually bother verify it ?) – avi Nov 4 '13 at 15:37
  • @avi you cannot be sure, but they could… – F'x Nov 4 '13 at 15:38
  • I have updated the question, a bit after reading your answer. – avi Nov 4 '13 at 15:38

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