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I am currently a graduate student at a large university in the United States and I am the instructor for an advanced course. One of my students is applying to masters programs and has asked me to write a recommendation letter. They did a good job in a hard (and fairly unique) class, so I think I could write a fine letter saying this. But it isn't clear if this will be useful to the student's application if it is coming from a graduate student. Should I agree to write the letter, or suggest that they find full professors to write letters?

  • IMO ask the professor if they would cosign it. Write it, and ask for the instructor of record to approve and cosign. – xuq01 Dec 4 '18 at 4:49
  • I am the instructor of record for the course. – user101474 Dec 4 '18 at 14:19
  • IMO then write a letter, but insist the student should get letters from three professors. – xuq01 Dec 4 '18 at 21:30
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If the class is yours entirely (meaning you're not merely covering one day out of three weekly sessions for a faculty member), then I hope you do write the letter. You are the instructor of record, you are filling the role of faculty in this class and the role of professor for this student, and I cannot imagine someone being qualified to teach an upper-division seminar but not being qualified to compose a recommendation letter.

If it helps you feel less impostor-like, you can disclose the nature of your assignment in the letter. "Student A was an exemplary student in my "Life as a Repeat Game" seminar--a course I taught as a teaching assistant during my final year of graduate study." I would stay concise, highlighting essentials and avoiding flowery praise, but your question doesn't ask for advice on writing a letter of rec. :-)

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    I am inclined to disagree. While it may feel good for OP to write this letter, I think they would be doing the student a disservice. One of the primary reasons why people care about letters is because the writer presumably has seen many students come and go, and compare the applicant against previous students. This will typically not be true for a grad student, even if they are the instructor of record. – xLeitix Dec 4 '18 at 14:00
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    (and even if this happens not to be true for OP because they have, for some reason, an exceptionally long teaching record, the recipient of the letter will not be aware of that - perception matters in the applications game) – xLeitix Dec 4 '18 at 14:01
  • In my opinion, the student knows their situation best. The instructor could warn the student that they may wish to ask a full professor, but I don't think they should decline writing the letter. Maybe the student doesn't feel comfortable asking any professors and is choosing between the instructor who knows them well and a professor who does not. Or maybe the student is submitting several letters and feels comfortable including one of this point of view. – A Polyphony of Pirates Dec 4 '18 at 20:39

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