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Which one will be given more importance? A strong recommendation from a new assistant professor or an average recommendation from senior professor?

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You will want a recommendation from someone who is familiar with your work and who can speak to your strengths. Overall, I think the content of the letter matters more than the exact person writing it, provided s/he has the qualifications to write the letter in the first place (e.g., a professor or someone otherwise qualified to assess your academic and research work).

If you have had considerable interaction with the new professor through research, class time, et cetera, then s/he would be a good choice for a letter. Probably the only time you may even consider going with the senior professor (and weaker letter) is if the absence of the letter from him/her would be a red flag. For example, if the senior professor was your advisor, most people would find it concerning not to see a letter from him/her.

  • Sorry to down vote, but I think not mentioning experience at all as one of the qualifications to write a letter is really doing this question a disservice. It's not the only thing that matters, but it does matter. – Ben Webster Feb 17 '17 at 19:11
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    I like this answer. A mediocre recommendation from a senior professor can be a kiss of death. – aparente001 Feb 18 '17 at 4:05
  • @aparente001 I agree with that. The answer to the OP's question probably depends a lot on what an "average" recommendation means. I just think that seniority is an important component of "who can speak to your strengths." – Ben Webster Feb 18 '17 at 21:31
  • @BenWebster - Yes, I got a bit stuck on what was meant by "average" too. Good point. – aparente001 Feb 18 '17 at 21:35
  • By average I meant that when faculty uses a generic template to write and the referral which contains nothing unique about the candidate. A very generic letter. – Punarbasu Roy Feb 21 '17 at 13:59
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The effect of multiple recommendation letters isn't additive (usually it's subadditive). So, it's better to have recommendation letters from different types of professors who know you in different ways. A strong recommendation from a new assistant professor could carry a lot of weight, but they don't have a lot of experience to compare your work with other students, which a more experienced professor would. So you do probably want a letter from a senior person who has worked with a lot of students, but luckily, you're allowed to get letters from multiple people, so you don't have to choose.

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    So you do probably want a letter from a senior person — Not if it's "average". Anything less than a strong letter is damaging. – JeffE Feb 20 '17 at 2:49
  • @JeffE To me, it's totally impossible to know what the OP means by "average." Obviously, it would be best to have three letters from glowingly enthusiastic, extremely eminent and experienced professors who know the candidate extremely well in lots of different contexts. But generally, students have to make a lot of trade-offs. I'm just trying to put out that asking a less experienced person is trading something off, though in many cases it is a tradeoff worth making. – Ben Webster Feb 20 '17 at 18:57
  • By average I meant that when faculty uses a generic template to write and the referral which contains nothing unique about the candidate. A very generic letter. – Punarbasu Roy Feb 21 '17 at 13:59

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