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Admissions Bad and Good recommendation letters

  • Thread starter QassimQQ
  • Start date
Hello everyone,

I am having a problem here. I asked four of my professors to write me a recommendation letter.

I have received three so far "waiting for the forth". The first was very awesome, the professor wrote me one of the best recommendation letters I have ever seen. Detailed, long, very good English, said some really nice things about me "I was moved to be honest!!".

Later I have received the other two. They were short, not detailed, they had some grammatical issues.

After the first recommendation that I got, I feel that all the others are quite bad to be honest.

Are discrepancies in recommendation letters expected?


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Your question is essentially ”will different people have different opinions about me?” It should be quite clear that this is expected based on your interactions with different people. A recommendation letter is a subjective appraisal of your fitness for a particular type of position.

I also do not see why you think the level of English is at all relevant or related to the perception of you. If I write a letter I do as well as I can in that department regardless of whether it is a ”good” letter or not.

I would also not say that it is usual to send the letters to you. It would be more common (at least in my field) to send them directly to the employer.


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Often reference letters can vary in what they say about a student for the reason mentioned above - different people will hold different opinions of you.

When I read reference letters, often what I look for are concrete examples of the traits I'd like to see in the type of person that I'd like to either have as a student or work with. This is because subjective statements such as "this student is a hard-worker" or "this student is highly intelligent" can depend greatly on the writer, and may often be related to how well the writer simply likes the student, whether the writer has a vested interest in seeing his or her students do well, whether there is pressure from the professor's department to promote their students, etc. I believe there are also studies where it's been shown that the subject's gender can result in statistically significant differences in these subjective statements. So what I look for, rather than vague statements, are specific examples of what the subject of the letter has accomplished or done.

For example, rather than say the student is a "hard-worker" I look for statements like:
- student arrived prepared for all meetings with examples of progress (printed graphs, tables, written summaries) on his or her project, or detailed notes on unsuccessful approaches to the problem
- student invested the time to develop the coding skills to write a script that made our analysis run faster
- student read papers beyond the suggested readings and this brought in new ideas to the project

The reason I bring this up, is because as a student, you have little control over what other people say about you. But what you can control are the examples of your work that they have to draw from.

Finally, I wouldn't be too concerned about grammar.


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An example of a recommendation letter that is short and not very detailed:


I would also not say that it is usual to send the letters to you. It would be more common (at least in my field) to send them directly to the employer.
I was surprised by that as well. I don't think I've ever seen a recommendation letter that I've requested to be sent on my behalf. In my past, they are confidential between the professor or colleague that I requested the letter from and the person receiving the letter.

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