Two of my students interns have applied for graduate school and are now asking me for references. Both did well, but one did really well. The weaker student is still excellent, and will do well in grad school I’m sure, but my reference for him will not be as strong.
They are applying to some of the same programs.
How do I reflect their ranking in the letters without completely killing the weaker candidate’s chances?
How honest do I get with the weaker candidate? I think it may be better that they apply to more (and different) programs, but don’t want them to get the impression they are not good enough.
The interns worked on one project together where the weaker student was the lead (culminated in a submission to a top venue). The stronger intern had a separate project that he successfully completed, in addition to two more projects that are currently in the works.
Both are applying to top US schools.