I am a first-year graduate student in mechanical engineering. For most of the fellowships I want to apply, such as the NSF fellowship for graduate students, they all require 3 letters of recommendation.

My problem is I only have one research advisor who knows me very well but even with this advisor we haven't produced any meaningful work yet. Also, during my undergrad, I've only done one summer research a long time ago at a very large lab and I never got to meet the PI while in the lab. I don't think he even remembers me now.

To sum, I don't really know where I should get my other two letters of recommendation. In my case, should I ask my graduate school instructors for the letters? is this a good idea?

1 Answer 1


The best letters are from those who both know you well and can make an honest prediction about your success. Instructors, with whom you have little real contact, are much less valuable as they can say very little.

Perhaps there are other people from your undergraduate years that fulfill the "best writers" criteria. They would probably be better than letters saying only "Mochi has done will in my class". They needn't be a lab PI or a supervisor, though they need some credibility, also.

But, you get the best you can. And for the future, make sure you develop strong relationships with the faculty who will be in a position to help your career advance.

  • 2
    Well said. I would add that you are far from the only person to have this issue.
    – eykanal
    Jun 30, 2021 at 19:35
  • Thank you so much. Now I regret not developing relationship with professors during my undergraduate years... I wasn't really interested in research during my undergrad.
    – Mochi
    Jul 2, 2021 at 5:25

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .