Grad student VS classroom Professor letter?

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Joined: Thu Feb 06, 2020 12:10 am

Grad student VS classroom Professor letter?

Post by Brain » Tue Jan 26, 2021 9:09 pm

I am an international student, and I plan to apply to the astrophysics grad school. Now I have one letter from a professor who I have closely worked with. He certainly know me a lot. But I still need two more letters. Ideally, I can work with one more professor for a summer and one semester and get a letter which talks about my research skill. I do not think I can work with two more professors, since I am a junior now.

So now I have two choice for my 3rd letters: a letter of grad student who I have worked with for about one semester and he is a postdoc now, and I believe that he can write good things about my research skills, or a letter from a professor who I have taken classes with. Which one is better? I know that some school do not take letter form non-faculty seriously, but letter from classroom professor also feels like not helping very much after reading people's comments. I don't think a joint-letter from the grad student with my professor is a good option, since he have graduated. Or is there any advice?

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Joined: Tue Jul 07, 2020 7:06 am

Re: Grad student VS classroom Professor letter?

Post by HubbleBubble » Thu Feb 04, 2021 6:05 am

Personally, one of my three letters came from a post doc and I did far better than I could have hoped for in admissions. But we were close, he was a friend and mentor, and we had published together. He was also a 3rd yr post doc who had other mentoring experiences to compare to. So maybe I’m an outlier.

I have heard two off hand professor comments indicating “non faculty member letters are useless” and “non research mentor letters are useless.” I think both are far too absolute and clearly not true, but it does show some professors think both ways.

Besides talking to someone who is directly involved with admission decisions, my advice would be to get the third letter from whoever you think has the highest opinion of you and will write the shiniest review. Whichever one you pick it will only be helpful if they can write a strong letter, after all.

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