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Crappy grad school rec from great prof

  1. Dec 20, 2011 #1
    if you took the top math or physics class at your school (think Math 55 at Harvard) but weren't that good in it, would you get a rec from that prof? thats my dilemma ... well-known prof has agreed to write me a rec if i want, but says it would not be that great since i was not a top student in the class.

    however, i have few other options because i've been out of school a long time. i'm applying to a MS Stats program so the standards are not quite as high as math/physics ... but i don't want to shoot myself in the foot. is a meh-diocre rec from a well-known prof better than no recs from any profs? (i would get work colleagues instead.)
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 20, 2011 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    Why do you think a "crappy" rec will do you much good?

    Second, unless you work with people who have gone to grad school themselves, why do you think their letters will do you much good?
  4. Dec 20, 2011 #3
    I am no expert in this, so take this with a grain of salt. As far as I know (and heard from people around me) a letter saying - "Mr. X got an A in my Topology class" - won't help you with admissions that much, no matter who wrote it.

    True, recommendation letters from popular people will sound good, but, all countries don't have popular people and superstar researchers, so the adcoms will only see what your recommender says and whether he is a practicing researcher, if so, then it could make wonders!!!!
  5. Dec 20, 2011 #4


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    Based on what you've written, it sounds to me like you're better off exploring other options. Generally, when I read reference letters I don't put so much weight on the repuation of the referee as I do on whether or not the referee is in a position to evaluate the potential of the student for graduate school. Letters from people whom you did your undergraduate thesis project for, or worked for (volunteer or otherwise), supervised you as a TA, carry more weight than letters from someone whom you've taken a single class from.
  6. Dec 21, 2011 #5
    i don't, but my options for recs are extremely limited - it's my main weakness. i graduated UG 6 yrs ago and did not cultivate the relationships needed for strong recs as i had zero interest in grad school at the time. so i'm trying to choose the best among bad options

    so would you go with the non-academic colleagues instead of the mediocre professor rec?
  7. Dec 22, 2011 #6
    What kind of work do your colleagues do? You are applying to a MS Stats program, so if, say, they were statisticians they would probably be good people to ask for recs. If they are, say, human resources professionals, I doubt their recs would help and you might be better off using the one from the professor. If your colleagues are, say, engineers, maybe you should talk to them, ask if they would be comfortable writing a rec, maybe they would be able to write something positive about your technical abilities, perseverance, technical initiative, etc. which would be relevant to grad school. I am applying to engineering grad school (MSEE) and am planning to use recs from other engineers at my job. I am lucky because I actually work in exactly the field I want to go to grad school in. I don't know if this is your situation, though. My rec options are kind of limited too, but I figure it's worth a shot. The worst that can happen is I won't get into grad school, but I don't stand a chance of getting in if I don't even try to apply.
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2011
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