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I have a little computer science background. In one of my statistic courses we did significant data analysis with SAS and R coding. I'm getting this professor to write a LOR for me. He wants me to draft the LOR for him.

How should I write this letter so I don't come across as someone who confuses computer science with coding?

In other words, I want to convey how this course makes me a good candidate for a computer science graduate program.

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Let us put aside the question of you vs. your letter writer, because the same question could apply to your statement of purpose.

The notion of "programming ability" per se is a bit of a red herring. The problem is: how do you actually measure what a "good" programmer is? The only meaningful answer that I know of is to illustrate what somebody has accomplished that required programming. Any other assertion of programming ability, I regard as a red flag. In fact, one of my litmus tests for whether somebody is a good programmer is to ask what languages they know: if they can readily and simply answer the question, they probably aren't a good programmer (the logic behind this: getting significant things done with software tends to, over time, involve being forced to deal with lots of random types of code in order to get things done).

Thus, I would recommend you instead focus on emphasizing what you have accomplished using programming. This way, you will show not just "programming ability" but also personal organization, ability to accomplish difficult and complex tasks, ability to think in a computer science manner about problems, and other such qualities that actually matter a lot more for demonstrating your potential in a program. If you did a cool and complex project in the class, that is what you should be talking about, with SAS and R being mentioned in passing as the tools you used. If all you did was problem sets, well, I would have a hard time seeing how this could be a strong LOR in the first place.

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    "one of my litmus tests for whether somebody is a good programmer is to ask what languages they know: if they can readily and simply answer the question, they probably aren't a good programmer" - That's an interesting take. I am not sure if I agree, though.
    – xLeitix
    Nov 19 '14 at 13:00
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Let's ask the right question first.

Do you think this is a situation where you should know, and know, what the application committee at the target program wants to hear, or where your professor should know these things? If the latter, then you're in a very difficult situation. My personal recommendation would be to discuss the matter frankly with the professor, and try to develop a constructive understanding. If the professor says something like:

yes you should emphasize X Y and not Z, all of which I would give you glowing praise for, and I'll make sure the committee is receptive to it. I just don't have a lot of time and want you to help out a bit, so thank you for asking since that saves me time too.

then you are in very good shape.

If you don't know, and they don't know, then you need to find another writer.

Now, asking your original question is actually off topic here (although I think why it is off topic and what to do about it is very on-topic... nevermind the meta). You cannot answer this question without domain-specific knowledge. It would need to be answered, basically, by someone who has done admissions work at a CS graduate program. Not a physics graduate program nor a biology graduate program. Furthermore it will probably depend on the nature of your target school. Some schools are engineering focused (and programming ability may be more important if not a sign of brilliance) and some schools are theory focused (and programming is a necessary nuisance). This is why I'm emphasizing that it's more important for you to use more general resourcefulness to solve this question, as it's far more specific and situational than you may realize.

In particular, ask this question to your rec letter writer.

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    It would need to be answered, basically, by someone who has done admissions work at a CS graduate program. - presumably, that's why the OP asked it here - so that one of our users who's been on a graduate CS admissions committee can answer it.
    – ff524
    Oct 20 '14 at 3:25

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