worried about my letters of rec

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

worried about my letters of rec

Postby larry burns » Thu Sep 17, 2009 8:17 pm

I'm considering applying to top phD programs, probably in either applied physics or EE. Although my gpa and GRE scores are ok, 3.85 in math/physics double major, and 800 Q, 490 verbal, and 5.0 AW, I'm very concerned about the strength of my letters of rec.

prof #1: I did an REU with him last year, and he mentioned that he would gladly write me a letter of rec if I apply to grad schools. He wrote me a letter for the REUs I applied for this summer (I rejected those and did an internship instead)

prof #2: I took a class with this prof, got an A, sort of got to know him, but that class was a year and a half ago. My guess is that he wrote 'Student did well in my class' for the letters of rec he wrote for me that got me into the REU last year

prof #3: No clue who to ask. I have 3 options: profs A, B, and C
A: I probably saw him in office hours only once or so. I got an A in his class, but I think he barely knew me. But since I transferred to my university last year, I had to ask him for the letter of rec to get into REUs. apparently his and prof #2's letters were decent enough to get me into an REU.
B: he's a post-doc in applied math, and I helped him with his research for 1 semester. Mostly just programming and data-entry. However, he ignored my email when I first tried to contact him to help him with his research. I had to see him in his office for him to agree to hire me as his assistant. Then, last week, I emailed him again to say I can help him with his research this upcoming semester, and he ignored me again!
C: I took his class for 2 semesters of quantum mechanics. He seemed to know the names of most of the students in the class, but only remembered my name towards the end of the 2nd semester. I got 2 A- in his classes

Which of the options is the best to ask for my 3rd letter of rec?

I don't know how reputable these profs are, but I can tell you this. I had prof #2 and prof #3A write me the letters of rec for last year's REU, and i got into 2/13 of the programs I applied to. This year, I had prof #1 and prof #2 write the letters of rec for this year's REUs, and I got into 2/3 of the programs I applied to. Then again, when I applied last year, I only had 1 semester's worth of university classes on my transcript, after transferring from a community college

Clearly, my letters of rec arent the strongest, in fact, possibly even very weak. Thus, I'm considering either just accepting the fact that I won't go to a top school, or I may decide to just wait another year or so, and do research with another prof during that time, and get a good letter of rec from him. Is the latter a good idea for my situation?

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Re: worried about my letters of rec

Postby twistor » Thu Sep 17, 2009 9:48 pm

"A" sounds like a winner to me.

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Re: worried about my letters of rec

Postby grae313 » Fri Sep 18, 2009 12:00 am

You can always apply and if you are very unsatisfied with the results just don't accept any offers and take a year to build up a relationship with your reccommenders.

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

Re: worried about my letters of rec

Postby larry burns » Sat Sep 19, 2009 4:24 am

I forgot to mention that last semester I helped out prof 3A with his research for about a week, but I think I told him that I changed my mind and decided to help out prof 3B with his research instead. All I remember is that I contacted 3A to tell him that I updated the powerpoint presentation that I was gonna present to his research team, but he didnt respond. I then asked him if he knew of any companies that were looking for summer interns (I was looking for summer internships this summer), and he didnt respond to that email either

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Re: worried about my letters of rec

Postby twinb87 » Tue Oct 20, 2009 10:23 am

I agree with twistor that professor A is probably the best option. Instead of e-mailing him, you could try dropping by his office and asking him directly. I don't know what kind of person he is but my experience has been that most professors are usually pretty willing to help students with graduate school plans.

If you are afraid that professor A doesn't know you well enough to write a recommendation, just give him your statement of purpose, resume and transcripts to give him an idea of who you are. If you explain to this professor why you are interested in physics, what kind of research you are interested in, what your ultimate goals are and highlight the major positive points of your academic career thus far...this should be enough for him to write a good letter.

It is impossible to determine right now if this will be enough to get you into the top programs you want. However, I think this is the best course of action for you take right now and hope for the best.

Good Luck!

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