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TL;DR I finished bachelor's and master's in mathematical finance but want to pursue pure mathematics, particularly in probability theory. I'm not sure if I should apply directly for a PhD. I might apply for a second master's first.

I think the strength of the letter of recommendation (or whether or not there will be a letter of recommendation) from my professors may depend on the program to which I am applying. How should I ask for a letter in this context?


My past questions: 1 2 3 4


[Details removed following suggestion in comments]


So how might I ask for a letter of recommendation under this context? What I think to ask so far is to first request a consultation asking for advice in applying for graduate programs. At this point I explain I'm not sure if I'm going to apply for a second master's or a PhD. Then of course I ask for a recommendation letter. But how? These are what I have in mind:

Would you be uncomfortable writing me a letter of recommendation?

or

Would you be uncomfortable writing me a letter of recommendation? Would the strength of the letter depend on the program to which I am applying (whether second master's or PhD)?

or

Would you be uncomfortable writing me a letter of recommendation? Would the comfortability of writing the letter depend on the program to which I am applying (whether second master's or PhD)?

or

Would you be uncomfortable writing me a letter of recommendation? Would the strength or comfortability of writing the letter depend on the program to which I am applying (whether second master's or PhD)?

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    Uh... I think you are much more likely to get people to read your question and consider answering it if you remove the highly personal details in between "How should I ask for a letter under this context?" and "So how might I ask for a letter of recommendation under this context?" Also see this suggestion and this one. – ff524 Jul 7 '16 at 5:42
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    Would you try another option? Get rid of the word "uncomfortable". Use the positive one "Would you feel comfortable writing me a letter of recommendation?" instead. – scaaahu Jul 7 '16 at 6:02
  • @scaaahu I am not sure I am comfortable with that. I used a tag question so that rejection word is "yes" instead of "no". well anyway, assuming I use "comfortable" instead, what else do you suggest? – Jack Bauer Jul 7 '16 at 6:04
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    I agree with @scaaahu that "uncomfortable" is a weird way to ask this kind of question, BTW. Anyway, you care about how strong the letter is, not how comfortable the writer is when writing it, so I'd go with "Could you write a strong letter" :) – ff524 Jul 7 '16 at 6:12
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    You sound like you're trying to make a sale, not asking someone for a favor. Whatever benefit you think you're going to get from this game of rephrasing the question, I don't think you're going to get it. – ff524 Jul 8 '16 at 6:29
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To me, the following progression seems more natural than either of your suggestions:

I am interested in further studies but I am not sure whether to go to a second masters or a PhD program from here. [Here is my background and here are my career goals.] What are your thoughts?

then

Do you think you could write a strong letter of recommendation for me for [the kind of program you suggested would be best for me]?

and then, if the answer is yes,

If I decide to apply to [the other kind of program], do you think you could write as strong a letter of recommendation for me for that program?

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  • basically, the question I would ask depends on how it goes when I first ask for advice in general for grad apps? – Jack Bauer Jul 7 '16 at 6:05
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    @JackBauer Yes. Make your potential letter writers think you are actually interested in them for their knowledge and experience, not just their letter-writing ability :) – ff524 Jul 7 '16 at 6:06
  • @ff524 ...assuming, of course, that you are, in fact, interested in them for their knowledge and not just their letter-writing ability. – JeffE Jul 7 '16 at 12:32
  • @JeffE of course :P "What I think to ask so far is to first request a consultation asking for advice in applying for graduate programs." – Jack Bauer Jul 8 '16 at 6:27
  • thanks ff524 :) follow up question hahaha academia.stackexchange.com/questions/72465 @JeffE – Jack Bauer Jul 8 '16 at 6:30

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