This is about US PhD programs.

Is it a good idea to ask for a letter from a famous academic, alumni of the school you are applying, who will write there his opinion and research potential after interviewing you?

P.S. No prior interaction with this person.

  • 1
    It sounds like a bad idea to me, but I've heard of similar things being done successfully.
    – Thomas
    Dec 29, 2017 at 23:57

1 Answer 1


No, not really.

An interview doesn't give anyone the opportunity to really address your actual skills and promise as a researcher. It could serve as an "additional" data point (the same way that alumni interviews at private US schools offer additional information), but I don't think someone who interviewed you, famous as they may be, would provide helpful feedback that couldn't be provided by someone else who knows you firsthand. (One of the things that a reference letter asks is "how long and in what capacity have you known the applicant. "I met her for an hour once" is not an answer that inspires a lot of confidence.)

(Then, there's the additional issue of arranging the interview—I doubt a "famous name" would agree to such an interview in the first place!)

  • No. You should only get letters from those faculty that know you well as a person, not because they're a famous name. Dec 29, 2017 at 22:59

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