Im curious how important is the stature of an author of a recommendation letter (both for phd positions and fellowship applications).

A more answerable question would be what is the difference from a reader's viewpoint of (1) a letter that comes from a very new (< 1 year) non-tenure track faculty member with a very good relationship and experience with the recomendee versus (2) a well established tenured professor with only minor interaction/experience with the recomendee (but enough to feel comfortable writing a letter).


2 Answers 2


There is more to the story. A weak letter from a "strong" person means very little. If they can't say much about you to support your candidacy, based on what they know, and just send a "form" letter, then it won't have much impact.

On the other hand, a letter from someone who knows you well can read as a much more enthusiastic endorsement.

But, it is the reader who gets to judge. If they actually "know" the writer then it is likely to have more weight, rather than the abstract reputation of the writer.


When there is a large pool of readers, the stature of your letter writer is overrated. "Famous" professors are often unknown to most other professors.

If the competition is within a single university or a small country, then stature might be important, depending on local culture. But usually letter quality will count for more.

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