Due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation, I was bound to do my masters in mathematics via online mode.

As a result I don't have my master's project thesis and also have less interaction with the professors of my institute. But I have done a few summer projects for two months at other institutes.

During my PhD application abroad, will it be accepted if I take the recommendation letters from my summer project supervisors instead of the professors of my institute?

Will it be a disadvantage of my application profile as an international applicant?


Letters of support are ideally written by an academic or researcher you have worked with, and who can attest to your good research skills (or other skills you believe you would like to showcase in your PhD application, e.g. communicating your ideas in writting).

In the situation you describe, your summer project supervisors sound like ideal letter writers, if those were research projects or otherwise relevant to the topics of the PhD programmes you are applying to.

You can always address this, together with why you have no MSc thesis or supervisor from your own institution, in the cover letter. That is the place to provide context for the facts you demonstrate with your CV. Something like:

As the requirement of a MSc thesis was removed from my study programme at University X in my final year due to the pandemic, I have taken the initiative to obtain relevant research experience by participating in summer projects at Institute Y.

(And then, like in any other cover letter, you talk about your relevant experience, which in your case would be the one from the summer projects rather than the thesis).

  • I agree with this answer. As someone who participates in the HR process at my company, I'll note that I would place more value on "optional" work done by students, as it suggests that the candidate either has initiative or has interest in the field. Such work is worth even more than a master's project, because nobody stood behind the student and said, "do this or you won't graduate." I agree with this answer that it's still good to address that the recommendation letters aren't coming from the school: That's atypical, even without a master's project.
    – Brian
    Jun 10 at 20:40

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