My major is computer science. I'm senior and I want to apply for PhD in CS.

I have 2 recommendation letters right now. One is from a professor that I previously worked with. The other is from one of my MATH course teachers. Most universities require at least 3 recommendations.

My plan is trying to gain 2 more recommendations by working with 2 more professors in my interested area which is kind of difficult(I can get one but I don't know whether I will have time for the second). Based on my experience, the strongest recommendations are acknowledgment from professors that I worked with. So I would like to have 3 this kind of letters to be my main recommendations.

My cousin said that he will convince some of his friends and partners who are successful entrepreneurs to write recommendations for me. It may help since some of them may be trustees of some universities. But I'm really hesitant right now. I don't know what number range of recommendations is considered appropriate. Also, I have a really good relationship with my cousin. I don't want to turn him down if these letters will cause some negative effects.

Can someone give me some advice?

1 Answer 1


You want recommendations from people who know you well and know what is necessary to succeed in graduate school.

The best recommendations, then, are from professors who both mentor graduate students and know you well, like someone who has mentored you in an academic research project. Since it's unlikely you'll have 3 such advisors, there are other important people who know you very well (like a boss in a job related to your field, even if they are not a professor) or know you not as well but know what traits make good graduate students (like a professor in a course you've taken) - these can be good supplemental recommenders.

You don't want more recommendations than necessary - this wastes the time of people you want to impress. You don't want recommendations from people who don't know you, don't know what it takes to succeed in graduate school, or worse yet, neither.

The examples your cousin is suggesting sound like they are in the "neither" category, and worse yet, it appears there could be some unethical implications ("some of them may be trustees of some universities") - stay far away from even an appearance that you are making a threat or bribe.

Sounds like you have a much better plan without your cousin, so you're best off finding a way to respectfully tell them "no". Fortunately it's not their decision who you ask for recommendations.

  • Thank you, sir. You really mentioned sth that I really worried about. I'm really sensitive to academic integrity and have stayed away from any behaviors that may harm it in my college. I'll take your advice seriously. Aug 10 at 6:13

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