I am applying for my post graduate studies.

From which person is it better to get letter of recommendation? From the person who taught me 2 sems and presently is Head of Department of my graduate field (who is also a phd) or from my math teacher who is an Assistant professor and has taught me for 4 sems?

  • Do you have any reason to suspect that one may write a stronger letter for you, based on your interactions with them? – user38309 Dec 9 '15 at 22:18
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    Both. That's why you have 3 letters. – RoboKaren Dec 9 '15 at 23:02
  • Is the post-graduate field of study mathematics? – theforestecologist Dec 10 '15 at 4:21
  • While it seems that quite a few undergrads I have met seem to fall head over heels every time they see the department head walk into the room, you should know that the faculty who'll be reading your letters are not going to experience the same "love crush" reaction just because they are reading a letter from the cherished department head at your school. – Mad Jack Dec 10 '15 at 5:25
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    From the person who can most positively, concretely, and convincingly describe your strong research potential. – JeffE Dec 10 '15 at 18:09

Good question. Here are my thoughts.

If you can have both, then you should. If you can only have one or the other, then I would weight it up like this. If both are going to say good things about you, then pick the one higher in status. If one is going to say much better things about you than the other, then pick that person.

If you think that can get a somewhat better recommendation from the assistant professor than from the head of the department, then that is a bit of a quandary. As status of a student's referee and their level of supportiveness both affect acceptance decisions to uncertain degrees, you will probably just have to make a call based on your own intuition.

  • Thanks, and I had one more question, assistant professor is my brother-in-law but he has also taught me for 4 sems so would it put up a bad impression if I get LOR from my brother-in-law (who was also my math professor)? – Mk47 Dec 10 '15 at 8:38
  • Are they going to know that he is your brother-in-law? If there is no possibility that they will know this then it probably won't affect things. However if they are going to know, then I would probably advise against it. I would also check their submission guidelines - sometimes they specify that referees cannot be related to you, and relation through marriage might be included in those restrictions. – Peter Slattery Dec 12 '15 at 22:52

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