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Advice on getting letter of recommendation

  1. Apr 2, 2007 #1
    I'm currently attending a community college and I was notified by e-mail about this summer research opportunity at UCSB. The problem is the application and letter of recommendation are due by April 15. This week is spring break for me, so I have to get the recommendation from my professor next Monday.

    But I'm afraid she won't write a good recommendation. Although she knows my name and seems pleased with my exam scores, I sometimes sleep in class and she notices (the lecture is boring when I'm probably the only one in the class who reads the book before class). Also, in lab I don't take the initiative all the time (I'm pretty shy and my lab partner is retaking the class, so he knows alot about the circuits and equipment) and she even mentioned that I "stand around doing nothing" once. I've never talked to her outside of class or during her office hours.

    So what can I do to impress her in 1 day? I can probably discuss about condensed matter physics (that where she got her phD), physics job opportunites, string theory, etc and then ask for the recommendation, but will I still get a good enough recommendation?

    Also, is it wise to consider going to UCSB just because of this research opportunity? This program guarantees 2 research opportunities. But will I be just as likely to get 2 research opportunites during my 3 years at any other university like UCI or UCLA? This program is my only reason for considering going to UCSB.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 2, 2007 #2
    UCSB is a good school stephen hawking used to go there\


    as for your original question I'm not sure if there's much you can do except go and ask. Personally I would be annoyed if a student tried to impress me before asking for a letter. (then again I'm not a professor yet by a long shot)
     
  4. Apr 2, 2007 #3

    cristo

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    Is there noone else you can ask? The letter of recommendation will comment on your previous work, and your suitability for the research post, so if she's commented on you sleeping, and not doing anything in the lab, then I'd imagine the letter won't be all that impressive. Also, trying to strike up a conversation won't make the letter better given that you've got one day!

    I'd suggest finding someone else, maybe someone youve spoken to, or even asked a question outside of the lectures.
     
  5. Apr 2, 2007 #4
    Definitely see if another professor will write a letter for you.
     
  6. Apr 2, 2007 #5
    "Is there noone else you can ask?"
    I could ask my chemistry professor from last semester as she seemed extremely nice and probably wouldn't say anything negative about me except that I was really shy in the class.

    "I'd suggest finding someone else, maybe someone youve spoken to, or even asked a question outside of the lectures."
    I've never spoken to any of my professors outside of lecture or class. The only time I asked a professor for help was with one of my math professors. The guy was kind of a jerk and probably doesn't even remember me though.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2007
  7. Apr 2, 2007 #6

    cristo

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    Well, I think you should try to get one off someone who youve been in a few lectures with, and who seems like you can approach them. That may turn out to be better than a bad one from someone who knows you. You should start to get to know your professors though, since you will probably need at least one reference in the future!
     
  8. Apr 2, 2007 #7
    I guess I'll choose one professor I had that was really nice but probably doesn't remember me. I think I spoke to her once about advice for which math class to take last summer.

    Again, is it wise to consider going to UCSB just because of this research opportunity? This program guarantees 2 research opportunities. But will I be just as likely to get 2 research opportunites during my 3 years at any other university like UCI or UCLA? This program is my only reason for considering going to UCSB.

    Well I guess it couldn't hurt to apply
     
  9. Apr 2, 2007 #8
    Proton, don't base your actions too heavily on what I'm about to say. But I've found that in general, professors aren't out to screw over their students. Even the ones who hand out bad grades don't have any special desire to watch as students fail to get into research programs. I think that if your physics professor (the one in whose class you sleep) were to write you a recommendation, it would still be all right. She might mention your napping habits, but might also excuse them by pointing to your academic performance. I remember that when my space physics professor wrote me a recommendation letter for grad school, he said he would mention a few bad grades that I got in my first two years, but that he'd also take note of the very good grades I got my last two years (incidentally I got into grad school, if you're wondering about the effectiveness of this writing style). I think the worst that would happen is that if your professor doesn't like you, she'll simply refuse to write you a letter.

    Of course, none of us are in your position, so you should use good judgment in choosing the professors to write your letters.
     
  10. Apr 2, 2007 #9

    JasonRox

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    Or, you can refuse sending out a terrible letter.
     
  11. Apr 3, 2007 #10

    Chronos

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    Clear the air with your professor. She can highlight both your deficiencies and assets. A letter of recommendation from one such as her will have much more impact than a boiler plate 'seems like a nice enough person' coming from one you once had lunch with. Warts are most noticeable when their existence is denied. Most people feel more comfortable taking a chance with the whole person than the whitewashed version. Behavioral deficiencies are easily corrected, lack of talent is not. She would not chide you if she thought you lacked potential.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2007
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