81

A student who did the minimum during their PhD has very little chance of getting a prestigious fellowship. In the sciences, you must have publications to get prestigious fellowships; a student who did the minimum will not. Your role as a mentor is to guide students to attempt things they might succeed in. Tell the student they will not succeed in this ...


59

You should ask anyone who you intend to serve as your reference if they are OK with it, before doing so. It’s not an academic thing specifically; the same would apply in other situations.


47

I'd think you should have a candid discussion with the student about what they think you should write. Yes, (as in another reasonable answer here), university administrations will never tell you you'd done enough, nor will funding agencies, nor even will departments when it comes time for salary raise consideration. Right, so one should avoid being driven by ...


39

As gnometorule’s answer says, in general you should ask permission in advance (for a reference, and generally for anything which is implicitly making a commitment for someone). But the question asks about a situation where you have already given someone’s name as a reference without asking them — partly through inexperience, and partly because of being put ...


32

My reading of your question is that you don't think that you can actually recommend the student to your colleagues. It is a separate discussion whether we think that the student was right or wrong prioritizing family, so I'm simply going to address the question of the recommendation, devoid of whatever reason you might have for not wanting to recommend them. ...


8

I'm on the side of the PhD student here. I'm tenured faculty. I too continuously have to battle with university management to ensure that I can free up enough time to also have a family life outside of the university. This is not an attempt to do the bare minimum, but if you don't fight back against management's natural impulses, you end up with an 80-hour ...


8

I really don't understand what the question is here. The student has openly said they only want to do the bare minimum of work. They have indeed only done the bare minimum. They are now either sufficiently stupid, or sufficiently brass-necked, to ask you to write a recommendation letter for them. Just write a statement of the facts (as in paragraphs 2 and 3)...


8

I think there are multiple different strands to this issue, and it is helpful to try and disentangle them and think about each separately. Ignoring any matters of 'how they got here', where does the student stand today? What does their portfolio of achievements look like (results, papers, presentations, service to the community, external recognition, etc......


7

Fortunately, this isn't an either-or proposition! I agree with your assessment that you shouldn't come to your advisors empty-handed and ask for some schools to apply to. However, it would be perfectly reasonable for you come to them with a couple schools you like - probably spread out by competitiveness and such - and maybe some guidelines for what you ...


6

Your best letters will come from professors who know more about you than that you did well in their courses. I hope you have some of those. You could say in a cover letter that your exams in this persons courses were tops in each, based on anonymized department reports. I doubt that you'd be required to provide evidence for that.


5

In this era of networked printers, few people ever actually load letterhead paper into a printer any more. Instead, most organizations have electronic "identity" or "branding" collections that include templates for letterhead, business cards, etc. As such, in my experience, most recipients (in the US and Europe at least) expect letters ...


4

Get the student to bullet-point their positive qualities and pass the list to you. If it is accurate you can put it in your own style and write it in good conscience Give them the guidelines! Ask them to give concrete justifications and instances for each positive point they make about themselves. If there is any inaccuracy then you can say that you are not ...


4

There is more to the story. A weak letter from a "strong" person means very little. If they can't say much about you to support your candidacy, based on what they know, and just send a "form" letter, then it won't have much impact. On the other hand, a letter from someone who knows you well can read as a much more enthusiastic endorsement....


4

My sympathies. Some people are ... to put it politely... procrastinators. The bad effects this can have on other people make me think to give such people a more judgemental label, but I'll not do it right now. As a comment suggests: call them on the phone... send another email... and be prepared to ask someone else to write the letter.


4

As I understand it, although job applicants, grad school applicants, and so on, can nominally "waive their right to see the letters", in most states this seems to be not enforceable, in the sense that it is not legally possible to genuinely waive this right. When I've written letters, I construe peoples' waiving of "rights" to be an ...


3

Yes, it will count. Since you write "manager" I assume it's someone in industry, not academia, and so your manager may not be familiar with academic letters of recommendation. Probably the most important thing is that the letter should be a separate PDF document, and not just an email message. If the organization has an electronic letterhead, your ...


3

You cannot incur a conflict of interest within someone other than yourself. In the situation you describe, the only person in jeopardy of a conflict of interest is the professor. This professor might have a conflict of interest if the professor were to be both a "recommender" and also someone who "asked" you to apply to the professor's ...


3

Many universities have online systems for submitting recommendations in which the recommenders will get an email with a link to submit. In many of these they can paste the recommendation into a form or else upload a PDF. No signature needed. I usually do PDF with my letterhead template but it's not necessary.


3

When there is a large pool of readers, the stature of your letter writer is overrated. "Famous" professors are often unknown to most other professors. If the competition is within a single university or a small country, then stature might be important, depending on local culture. But usually letter quality will count for more.


3

It would be unprofessional to describe your previous employer in anything but positive terms when you are a job applicant. If you cannot describe them positively, do not describe them at all. You are showing the future employer how you will describe them in the future. You could try suggesting an alternate reference, without saying why. Ask yourself, why ...


2

In my past experience several of my endorsers asked me to send them a draft, in order to spare them the trouble of recollecting all the details. You could ask him to do the same and then have a frank, true-to-the-facts, face-to-face discussion on the statements contained in it. So you can position yourself in spoken words first, and then move on to the final ...


2

The readers of such letters will normally be looking for predictions of success in the academic program and thereafter. The past is less important (what you have already done) unless it supports that prediction of success. If the letter writer understands that, and they are supportive, then you should be fine. But a "bald" statement that "I ...


2

Given the new understanding of the issue, I'd suggest that you write to him, apologizing for the mail, and with an explicit request to let you know if he will do this. Perhaps your first mail wasn't clear on that point. But most professors receiving a request would normally assume that the default "yes, I can do that" is understood by the asker and ...


2

I am not sure about this. You ask if a letter send by email without letterhead and without signature will be ok. If the system only accpects LOR via some annoying online portal, then the safe answer is no. The letter might never even get into the system. You need to check with the place you are applying. My guess is that if they accept a LOR by email, ...


2

In many, and I hope most, places your friend will need to recuse from the decision to hire you even if they don't write a letter. Given that, assuming it is true, getting a letter from them isn't an issue. But you can ask, first, for their advice on whether a letter from them would be helpful or not. It is even possible, I suppose, that rules would make such ...


1

As @Jeff says, you should follow both of the paths you suggest: develop your own ideas, and then talk to your advisor. (And don't be offended if their perception of your potential versus those programs is not the same as yours. They still may be wrong...) An important aspect both for you yourself to think about and for discussion with your advisor, is what ...


1

To answer the general question about how to pick the last recommender: Ask the first two. They know you well, they know your field, and they presumably know at least the famous professor, if not the postdoc. They can guide you to what would help your application the most. Professors beat postdocs, and a little diversity in field can help. I suspect the ...


1

Realistically, your acceptance into a good doctoral program will depend on an assessment of your probability of success in research. Funding might depend a bit on other things as well, but not the acceptance itself. Normally that would suggest professors are to be strongly preferred. In your case, however, the post doc has some knowledge of your research ...


1

Edit after some exchange in the comments below: I recommend that you contact the writer of the third letter and tell them that what you really need is them to send the letter directly when asked, and to pass on contact details now. This problem seems to be the result of a misunderstanding, and busy high profile researcher or not, if a misunderstanding is ...


1

No? I straight up got picked for MS and PhD programs through directly talking to some professors who then decided they wanted me.


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