Maximizing the "goodness" of a recommendation letter

  • #1
Hello everyone, since recommendation letters are usually important when applying for graduate studies, I'd like to ask the following:

What do you guys think of the statement
'The best way to maximize the "goodnes" of your recommendation letter is by not caring about it'
?

I guess it's important to say that I came up with it. There's a lot of thought behind it, and what I basically mean is that we put a lot of effort into 'pleasing' our professors, for instance by hiding our flaws and trying to ask questions they "like". I believe that if instead we prioritize our understanding, and start asking more "stupid" questions if necessary, we'll be helping our careers a lot, and even good recommendation letters would follow...
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Choppy
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I think I understand what you're getting at, though I'm not sure I'd phrase it that way.

Being aware of (and exerting some control over) the impression that you make on others is a valuable skill. If you give undergraduate students the advice to ignore this, I think too many would take it too literally. While there are "no such things as stupid questions"... there are questions that students ask without first doing their homework. And this can certainly create the perception that the students are expecting to be spoon-fed answers.

But you are right that going too far to ask the "right" questions is probably not helping you in the long run.

The best way to maximize the quality of your reference letters is to be as awesome as you can.
 
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Likes Dr. Courtney and danielri1011101
  • #3
I think I understand what you're getting at, though I'm not sure I'd phrase it that way.

Being aware of (and exerting some control over) the impression that you make on others is a valuable skill. If you give undergraduate students the advice to ignore this, I think too many would take it too literally. While there are "no such things as stupid questions"... there are questions that students ask without first doing their homework. And this can certainly create the perception that the students are expecting to be spoon-fed answers.

But you are right that going too far to ask the "right" questions is probably not helping you in the long run.

The best way to maximize the quality of your reference letters is to be as awesome as you can.
Thank you very much Choppy. I completely agree with you on the importance of 'doing your homework'. If one really cares about a scientific career, being spoon-fed is simply wrong: struggling is necessary for serious understanding. Maybe a better phrasing would be something like
'If you prioritize your understanding, your professor will notice'
?

I decided to start the thread because lately I feel that we are too approval-seeking for our own good (at least in my field, which is math).
 

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