I graduated from a Master's program in the US a couple of years ago. I had a conflict with my toxic advisor. It was a really really hard time for me.

I came back to my own country and currently, I am working as a full-time worker.

However, I really want to apply for the Ph.D. program.

I talked about this with my master's advisor, and she said I should get a good rec letter from my current supervisor in my workplace so that it can cancel out her negative rec letter.

I am thinking about not getting a rec letter from her.

Actually, it traumatizes me a lot, I can hear her emotional voice in my head vividly every time I think of her, even until now.

I don't know what to do....

Is that a big red flag if I don't get a rec letter from her?

Is it good to write about the conflict in my personal statement or anywhere?

  • There are many questions and answers already on this site that pertain to this very question. Nov 10 at 2:19
  • @WolfgangBangerth yea... I've looked over it. However, I could not find a discussion on ideas to present in the essay for admission...
    – Tube
    Nov 10 at 6:26
  • Is the rec letter from your master advisor compulsory?
    – EarlGrey
    Nov 10 at 13:44
  • 1
    @Tube that is probably the case because this is not a discussion site#
    – Sursula
    Nov 10 at 15:48
  • @EarlGrey no it is not systematically required
    – Tube
    Nov 11 at 9:10

1 Answer 1


I'm sorry to hear about the difficult experience you had with your Master's advisor. It's understandable that such a situation can have a lasting impact on you. When it comes to applying for a Ph.D. program, there are a few things to consider:

Recommendation Letters:

While recommendation letters can play a crucial role in your application, it's not mandatory to get one from every past advisor. Admissions committees understand that conflicts can arise, and they may consider other letters, especially if you have strong recommendations from other sources. If your current supervisor can provide a positive recommendation that highlights your skills, work ethic, and potential for success in a Ph.D. program, that would be valuable. Personal Statement:

You have the opportunity to address any gaps or potential concerns in your application in your personal statement. If you choose to discuss the conflict, it's essential to approach it diplomatically and focus on what you learned from the experience and how it has shaped your goals and resilience. Focus on Positive Aspects:

Emphasize your achievements, skills, and experiences that make you a strong candidate for the Ph.D. program. Discuss your passion for the field and your commitment to contributing to research. Alternative Recommenders:

If possible, consider seeking recommendations from other professors, colleagues, or professionals who can provide insights into your academic and research abilities. Ultimately, the goal is to present a well-rounded and positive image of yourself in your application. If the conflict is a significant aspect of your journey and has shaped your decision to pursue a Ph.D., it may be worth mentioning, but do so in a way that highlights your growth and determination rather than dwelling on the negative aspects of the past.

Before making any decisions, you may also want to consult with mentors, colleagues, or career advisors who can provide personalized advice based on your specific situation and the dynamics of your field.

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