I requested a letter of recommendation from my old MA advisor with whom I did an independent research seminar. They asked me to send them my Statement of Purpose, which I stated was a rough draft. I received an email back saying that I didn't even mention any specific authors, that I would be better off going for a different PhD program, and saying that the program may not even take me on a student.

The program she is saying I am better off in I have no interest in what so ever. I told her that my statement of purpose was a very rough draft, and the History PhD program I am applying to specifically stated that you do not need an undergraduate degree in that.

I have a BA in an "areas studies" related to my PhD interest area and I have an MA in a foreign language also related to my research interest in the PhD. I have already even spoken to a potential advisor and sent them my CV. They expressed interest in me, stating I would be a good fit and wants to meet on zoom.

I found the email from my old advisor really discouraging as it makes it seem like they don't have confidence in my ability. I am thinking of just not responding to the email and asking a previous colleague in my program, who holds two MA degrees in adjacent fields whom I researched with and who is now a professor at a university for my last letter of recomendation that I need.

Any thoughts on all of this?

  • Is there any possibility of a face to face visit?
    – Buffy
    Commented Sep 21, 2023 at 16:12
  • No. They are not in the same city. I just thought the email was really discouraging and critical when my other 2 LOR writers who mentored me in undergrad and was my TA advisor/professor in grad school are encouraging me to apply. I feel like I dont even want this persons LOR anymore as I am having to beg/convince them to write it so it won't be strong. Commented Sep 21, 2023 at 16:17

1 Answer 1


I have to agree with your comment that this may be the wrong person to use as an advocate. I suspect they have some misunderstanding that would be hard to clear up without face to face contact. It isn't the sort of thing you can do by email other than with close friends.

I'd guess that your analysis is correct about your chances in such a program, but also suggest that you use others for letters.

However, you say a "different city" which could mean a lot of things. If the distance isn't too great, then a day spent in travel and speaking with them might be worth the effort.

An alternative would be to refine your SoP and send it, asking if they have the same opinion. If they do, then it would reinforce the judgement that they won't do you any good. Lukewarm letters can be harmful.

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