I have finished my master's in mathematics from an UK university with a first class distinction. I have always wanted to do a PhD in mathematics. But my supervisor is saying that the recommendation letter that he is going to write may not be the most positive one. I feel devastated, since he didn't mention any reason throughout the supervision. Now, to continue my study in mathematics, I have two options in my hand

(i) To apply for PhD without supervisor's letter of recommendation preferably from usa.

(ii) To do a second master's degree, I prefer from Germany.

I was wondering, what are the chances for me to get a PhD in a decent university, and what are the chances of being accepted for a second master's degree from Germany in a good university. I feel so stuck right now, it will be great if you can help me with this!

Edit: From a second masters degree I am expecting to do a serious research on my topic so that I can get a strong lor from my supervisor for phd

  • 2
    What would a second masters give you?
    – Buffy
    Sep 11, 2021 at 13:21
  • From second masters I am expecting to research extensively on my favorite topic, and get strong letter of recommendation from the supervisor also so I can apply for phd programme
    – user631697
    Sep 11, 2021 at 13:59
  • 1
    I think you are simply asking the wrong the question ...
    – Our
    Sep 11, 2021 at 14:03
  • 2
    What should be my question then?
    – user631697
    Sep 11, 2021 at 14:21

1 Answer 1


There are a lot of ways to do research other than in a second masters; in a doctoral program, for example. I think the only thing you might gain is a better letter of recommendation. And that isn't guaranteed.

Of course "not the most positive" is open to interpretation, though you know the person better than we do.

My suggestion would be to apply to some doctoral programs along with applications to second masters programs simultaneously and see what you get. The effort would be approximately the same, except for the number of applications. Use the masters applications as a backup in case none of the doctoral ones work out.

But also apply to a fairly broad spectrum of doctoral programs, not just the top schools in the field. This will increase your chances of success. And your other accomplishments may weigh against a letter that isn't glowing in all details.

I hope the old advisor isn't trying to sabotage your career. That would be cause for complaint. Maybe you can talk them into a better position. Maybe you can get one of their colleagues to speak on your behalf. Maybe you can get much better letters from other faculty.

Don't give up too easily.

  • Thank you so much for helping me. I was wondering, what are the chances for me to get phds into medium universities, that is not the best ones in the field without giving my supervisors letter of recommendation
    – user631697
    Sep 11, 2021 at 15:14
  • Also, will I be at disadvantages position while applying for the second masters degree?
    – user631697
    Sep 11, 2021 at 15:15
  • I don't know how Germany would treat it, but I think that it would be at least somewhat of a disadvantage anywhere. Especially where funding is supplied and the university wants to spread it widely. Generally you want good letters. Who they are from may be less important than that, though questions might be raised without one from your advisor. Maybe especially in Germany, but you'd need advice from someone with specific knowledge of admissions there.
    – Buffy
    Sep 11, 2021 at 15:30
  • Thank you so much for your reply. I am thinking about applying for second master's degree in Germany, and phd at usa. I believe, in my second masters degree letter from my supervisor may not be as important as in the application of phd. Though, I was wondering in general while applying for second kasters degree would I be atba disadvantageous position
    – user631697
    Sep 11, 2021 at 15:39
  • I'd guess that in the US a doctorate would be possible, but the admissions process is broad based. Letters predicting success are relatively important. But they probably don't need to be from your supervisor.
    – Buffy
    Sep 11, 2021 at 15:50

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