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How to get multiple rec. letters

  1. Jun 14, 2013 #1

    this has been concerning me for a while now. I've seen online many testimonials about how important recommendation letters are for acceptance into a graduate program.

    I only have minimal research experience as of now, and I'm currently working at an internship I will likely be doing until I graduate.

    Generally, it seems as if one would require 3 letters. If I do research with a professor and make a strong impression with him or her, that could get me a letter. My concern is where do the other letters come from? Where do admissions departments like to see letters from BESIDE research professors?

    I'm just concerned because I go to a smaller-end school and my research opportunities are quite limited. No professors at my school are really involved in what I am interested in pursuing in grad school, so I feel like my rec. letters will need to be good enough to outweigh the irrelevance of the research I do.

    My main question is how can I get more than one good rec. letter?

    Any advice to someone in this situation? I'd be very grateful. Thanks!

  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 14, 2013 #2


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    2017 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    Do you have two other "seniors" in the group? Do you work together with someone else somewhere else?
    I think every lifetime position should be fine - I have just one data point, but it worked for me.
  4. Jun 14, 2013 #3
    Thanks for responding!

    I did work last Fall with a professor and a classmate of mine, but started at my internship in the Spring and was left without time to continue that research (financial decision).

    I'm hoping to work with a math professor at some point this year, and there's one physics professor in particular I wanted to discuss the subject with, but I have yet to start.

    I just hope that having a smattering of research here and there will look good, and I also think doing multiple bouts of research could get me my letters. I'm just trying to figure out how it would be possible to get multiple letters while only doing research with one professor, you know?

    And your experience is very encouraging to hear, thank you
  5. Jun 17, 2013 #4
    I got letters from my academic adviser, my research adviser from my home institution, and one from each of the professors I worked for during summer REUs. Basically, I worked for more than one person over the years.
  6. Jun 17, 2013 #5


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    In college, I did research with two professors. I then got my third letter from a professor who taught a upper level / grad class I took.
  7. Jun 17, 2013 #6


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    Education Advisor

    Generally speaking I think most programs will expect at least one reference letter to have detailed experiences with the student - e.g. a mentor on a senior thesis project, a supervisor for a summer or part-time research position - but the others don't need to be so involved. It's good if they are, of course, but letters from professors who have led you through senior undergraduate classes are fine.

    I don't think it's worth detouring from a productive and enjoyable research opportunity for the sole purpose of gaining another reference letter. (If on the other hand you want to try something new then go for it - undergrad is a perfect time to do this.)

    There are other things that you can do to build relationships, if that's what you're asking. Volunteering to serve on committees, organizing colloquia, teaching labs, tutoring, holding an executive position with your undergraduate physics society, are all examples. None of those really trumps research experience, but they do help you get noticed.
  8. Jun 17, 2013 #7
    I got a letter from the professor I took measure theory with. I had spent alot of time in his office discussing the material with him and was confident I had made a good impression.
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