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I have a cousin who used to be a research engineer at MIT until recently, and now is the global manager of a company. While at MIT, he suggested that I should apply for graduate school there (I'm an undergrad in Mechanical Engineering in Brazil). He knows me pretty well and is encouraging me to try. I have a good GPA, 3.6/4 as of now, but could be 3.8/4 by the time I graduate. I also have published papers, some of which will be published in top journals. Since he used to be part of the MIT community, would a recommendation letter from him be an advantage for me? Or, because he's family, the comittee could simply consider it biased?

PS: He was not from the mechanical engineering department.

marked as duplicate by Wrzlprmft, Buzz, scaaahu, nengel, Enthusiastic Engineer Feb 8 '18 at 9:37

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This is probably not a good idea. A strong letter of recommendation will make it clear how the recommender knows the applicant. If it is apparent that the recommender is a family member, then many readers will simply ignore the recommendation.

Furthermore, a strong letter of recommendation will describe specific situations in which the applicant did something well. In this case, your recommender may not know you except through your family connection and probably doesn't know enough about your academic or research background to provide such examples.

  • Precisely. I have read through about 400 grad school applications over the past few years, and I would disregard (i) letters whose authors do not state how they know the author and where they got the information from that they are relating, (ii) letters that disclose that the applicant is a relative of the letter writer. So whichever way you approach this, I'd disregard the letter. I'd also downgrade the candidate as having poor decision making skills in searching out letter writers. – Wolfgang Bangerth Feb 8 '18 at 4:12

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