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How much will one bad recommendation hurt me if my others are good?

  • Thread starter xbomber88
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How much will one bad letter of recommendation for grad school hurt me if my other two are really good? I did an REU over the summer and really didn't get along well with my advisor and I'm a little bit worried about what he might write in my letter of recommendation. He did offer to write me a letter of recommendation without me asking so maybe that's a good sign but I'm still worried about it. I always felt like he didn't like me very much and also he hardly ever spoke to me. I ended up not accomplishing very much in my project but it was a very difficult project and I'm thinking that maybe my advisor knew that and didn't expect me to get too much done. But anyways how much will it hurt me if I have one letter of recommendation that's not very strong. Other than this one letter of recommendation I think I have a very strong application that's probably worthy of top ten schools but I'm worried that this will keep me out of good schools. Any thoughts?
 
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How much will one bad letter of recommendation for grad school hurt me if my other two are really good?
There is a difference between a neutral letter of recommendation and a bad one. If you get two good letters of recommendation and a third that said that you were in their lab and nothing blew up, then that's fine. If you have a *bad* letter saying that the writer doesn't think you should be admitted to graduate school, that will hose the application.

One thing that that you should realize is that in the United States you have the legal right to read your letter of recommendation unless you sign a waiver. I didn't sign the waivers for any of my letters and the professor gave them anyway.

Other than this one letter of recommendation I think I have a very strong application that's probably worthy of top ten schools but I'm worried that this will keep me out of good schools. Any thoughts?
If you are going into physics don't obsess over the ranking of schools.
 

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How much will one bad letter of recommendation for grad school hurt me if my other two are really good? I did an REU over the summer and really didn't get along well with my advisor and I'm a little bit worried about what he might write in my letter of recommendation. He did offer to write me a letter of recommendation without me asking so maybe that's a good sign but I'm still worried about it. I always felt like he didn't like me very much and also he hardly ever spoke to me. I ended up not accomplishing very much in my project but it was a very difficult project and I'm thinking that maybe my advisor knew that and didn't expect me to get too much done. But anyways how much will it hurt me if I have one letter of recommendation that's not very strong. Other than this one letter of recommendation I think I have a very strong application that's probably worthy of top ten schools but I'm worried that this will keep me out of good schools. Any thoughts?
Find someone else to write a letter of recommendation.

It would look VERY odd to someone considering your application, for anything, that you actually chose someone who would write a BAD letter on your behalf.

Zz.
 
You could at least ask the fellow what he would say in his letter. If he's offering to write a letter of recommendation, it's probably a good sign.
 
The other side of this question to ask (which I don't know the answer to) is:

How bad will having an REU on your resume, without a corresponding recommendation from your adviser there hurt your application?

If you have someone else you've done research with write one instead, it's probably not a big deal, but if he's the only person youve done research with, then it could be another story.
 
I did an REU over the summer and really didn't get along well with my advisor and I'm a little bit worried about what he might write in my letter of recommendation. He did offer to write me a letter of recommendation without me asking so maybe that's a good sign but I'm still worried about it. I always felt like he didn't like me very much and also he hardly ever spoke to me. I ended up not accomplishing very much in my project but it was a very difficult project and I'm thinking that maybe my advisor knew that and didn't expect me to get too much done.
that actually sounds pretty similar to my situation with an REU I did a few summers ago. I think for the most part he was pretty disappointed with me, but I worked as hard as I could towards the end, and apparently he noticed as he later mentioned that he was surprised that I completed a difficult part of the project just in time. He also offered to write me an LOR without my asking.

Anyways, have you spoken with him at all since the REU? His response could indicate how he evaluated your work. Maybe he just doesn't talk much?
 
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What kind of impression did you get of your REU advisor, OP? Does he seem like a nice person? Because imagine someone offering writing a letter of recommendation, knowing it's going to be pretty hard for you to refuse taking it. You have to be a pretty <insert your favourite adjective> dude to do that and then write a bad recommendation, as that would basically be actively trying to mess with someone's chances of getting into grad school. Seriously, just ask yourself what kind of person you need to be in order to do that.

So that being said, I'd say you have nothing to worry about, as you're going to get a good recommendation letter.
 
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What kind of impression did you get of your REU advisor, OP? Does he seem like a nice person? Because imagine someone offering writing a letter of recommendation, knowing it's going to be pretty hard for you to refuse taking it. You have to be a pretty <insert your favourite adjective> dude to do that and then write a bad recommendation, as that would basically be actively trying to mess with someone's chances of getting into grad school. Seriously, just ask yourself what kind of person you need to be in order to do that.

So that being said, I'd say you have nothing to worry about, as you're going to get a good recommendation letter.
Yeah that's kind of what I started thinking the more I think about it. I wouldn't really consider him to be a nice person but he's not evil. I don't think he would actively try to sabotage me from getting into grad school. I'm still not sure that he's going to write me a good letter of recommendation but I think it will probably be mediocre at worst.
 
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How bad will having an REU on your resume, without a corresponding recommendation from your adviser there hurt your application?
It won't. There are dozens of reasons why an REU advisor wouldn't write a recommendation. They could have moved to Zambia. They may have religious reasons against writing recommendations. They could just have bad writers cramp.

One reason that a bad recommendation looks really bad is that it is assumed that you will get recommendations from people that will say good things about you.
 

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