mentioning excuse for lack of research?

larry burns
Posts: 77
Joined: Wed Jul 02, 2008 1:12 pm

mentioning excuse for lack of research?

Postby larry burns » Thu Oct 21, 2010 3:27 am

So I'm getting ready to apply to grad schools in physics, and I did 2 different research projects as an undergrad. Thus I have 2 LORs from profs I did research with. However, I was unable to get a 3rd research project, and hence my 3rd LOR will have to come from a prof I just took a class with, so it'll be much weaker than my other two. The reasons I couldn't get that 3rd LOR are below, as they were related to my father's serious illness:
1. Last summer, I got accepted to 2 REUs. But they were far away from where I did my undergrad at. My father had been given approximately 1 year to live following December 2007. So in summer 2009, he had already exceeded his expected days. Thus, I felt that anything could've happened to him, so I was very hesistant to go to an REU far from home. I applied to these REUs at the time, knowing his condition, I guess as a back-up plan. That is, in case he seemed healthy enough for me to leave for a couple months, then I would've felt more comfortable going. I also decided not to do an REU at my school as I wasn't terribly interested in the available projects. I wasn't aware of REUs at nearby universities, as I looked at the schools offering REUs, and didn't see any nearby, but I now I don't think I looked carefully enough. Then, I got REU offers at 1-2 schools, so I was hesitant to accept them.
BUT.. I was also thinking about getting some industrial work experience, so I applied to some industrial internships, eventually getting an offer from a small company. As this was much closer to home than the REUs, and because I wasn't 100% sure I wanted to pursue research as a career, I decided to accept this internship

2. Last spring, I was accepted to the SULI program at Argonne for a project. I really wanted to go, but at that time, my father was doing much worse than before, and my family knew he probably wouldn't live past the duration of the SULI program. Thus, I had no choice but to turn down that offer, and stayed at home for his final days. Again, I applied because at the time, he seemed to be in only slightly worse condition than before. Since he had already survived this long, perhaps he could last longer. But the time I got the offer, he was doing much much worse.
BUT, I decided not to find a prof at a nearby university to do research with, as I instead commuted to school to take engineering classes (and immediately after my 2 classes ended, I would come home to see my family), because at the time, I wanted some exposure to mechanical or materials engineering. None of the ME profs wanted to take me on, and I don't think any of the materials profs did either. I applied for the SULI in the summer, but got rejected

So as a result, I was thinking that perhaps I could mention this (possibly on my SOP), as to why I couldn't get a 3rd research project, and hence get a stronger 3rd LOR. But I don't know if these excuses are valid. For the 1st one, I should've looked for more carefully for REUs closer to home, or just did the REU at my school even if I didn't like the projects. For the 2nd one, I should've just found any prof willing to take me on. Should I mention this or not?

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grae313
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Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 8:46 pm

Re: mentioning excuse for lack of research?

Postby grae313 » Thu Oct 21, 2010 10:48 am

Most students applying are likely to have one or maybe two letters related to research, and the rest from professors. Three letters from people you did research with is not expected and may even leave them wondering what your professors thought of you. I'm not saying three research letters is necessarily bad though. Anyways, I still think it's worth mentioning the issues you dealt with to get your degree, but I wouldn't mention them in the context of explaining your lack of a letter.

larry burns
Posts: 77
Joined: Wed Jul 02, 2008 1:12 pm

Re: mentioning excuse for lack of research?

Postby larry burns » Thu Oct 21, 2010 10:24 pm

oh ok. I guess quality is better than quantity. Its better to have one outstanding LOR from a prof you did research (and the other 2 can be mediocre LORs from profs you just took classes with) than 3 good LORs, all of which are from profs you did research with?

kroner
Posts: 218
Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2009 1:58 am

Re: mentioning excuse for lack of research?

Postby kroner » Fri Oct 22, 2010 11:47 am

You want the 3 best LoRs you can get. 1 outstanding LoR and 2 mediocre LoRs is clearly worse than 1 outstanding LoR and 2 good LoRs.

larry burns
Posts: 77
Joined: Wed Jul 02, 2008 1:12 pm

Re: mentioning excuse for lack of research?

Postby larry burns » Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:40 pm

To simplify my OP, I essentially felt forced to graduate asap so my ill father could see my graduate with my undergrad degrees before he passed away.

Should I mention it in my SOP in the context of how my gpa isn't great? My physics gpa was only about 3.63 (pretty bad in comparison to my 3.9 applied math gpa). It was hit the hardest in my last semester (fell from about 3.8 to 3.63), in which I took more courses than I could handle, so I could graduate asap. Instead of saying this in my SOP, should I just mention it to my profs instead, so they can mention it in their LORs?

admissionprof
Posts: 364
Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 7:50 pm

Re: mentioning excuse for lack of research?

Postby admissionprof » Thu Nov 11, 2010 8:43 pm

larry burns wrote:To simplify my OP, I essentially felt forced to graduate asap so my ill father could see my graduate with my undergrad degrees before he passed away.

Should I mention it in my SOP in the context of how my gpa isn't great? My physics gpa was only about 3.63 (pretty bad in comparison to my 3.9 applied math gpa). It was hit the hardest in my last semester (fell from about 3.8 to 3.63), in which I took more courses than I could handle, so I could graduate asap. Instead of saying this in my SOP, should I just mention it to my profs instead, so they can mention it in their LORs?


Absolutely you should mention this in your SOP. It is completely understandable and certainly won't sound like an excuse.




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