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Grad school reccomendations

  1. Jan 14, 2010 #1
    I wanted to post this question because I know a lot of the posters here are professors themselves. So I'm applying to math phd programs and i've been asking profs to write me rec's.

    My question is why professors insist that I waive my right to see the recommendations. I asked them if they would write me good rec's and they said they would, and assuming i do not waive my right i can only see the letter if i get in to a particular institution. I'm not worried about the actual waiving of this right, i did it without being asked, what i'm worried about is why some prof's want confirmation that I waived this right - is it because they aren't writing good rec's? I'm probably being paranoid but I'd like to have a professor's perspective.

    Please advise.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 14, 2010 #2
    I'm not a professor, but I know of a few reasons that have nothing to do with bad recs. Most of the profs I know will tell a student "no" or "I'm going to give you a terrible rec" before writing one.

    a) Most schools require it. Seriously, professors have to seal and sign on the envelope and everything.
    b) The reason it's so important to waive the right to see it is because it also means you haven't touched it after the professor wrote it, which means the rec is the professors actual words.
    c) If you can't see it, it's a bit harder to bribe the professor to write you a good rec. Professors don't want to risk their reputation on something like a rec.
  4. Jan 14, 2010 #3
    Only a very few psychopath professors actually write bad recommendations. Most will simply turn down a request if they cannot muster any enthusiasm for a student.

    But I imagine that it is a common situation where the professor's enthusiasm isn't as high as the student's. I suspect much of the purpose of the waiver is to spare professors from having to explain to irate students why getting an A in a course isn't quite the same as parting the Red Sea.
  5. Jan 14, 2010 #4
    And even when the prof's enthusiasm is as high, most students don't quite know what's supposed to go into a rec, so they can get irate about the strangest things. I have to write session reports for my job and I've long since learned that writing anything down in the students line of sight can freak some students out.
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