Letter of recommendation from a professor who barely knows me

Forum for the GRE subject test in mathematics.
namvuong
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2018 12:36 pm

Letter of recommendation from a professor who barely knows me

Postby namvuong » Thu Jul 19, 2018 12:53 pm

I am having a situation. I am applying to America at the end of the year. Now I have 3 LoR from my department, 1 of which is not so strong (the professor barely knows me).

Anyway, this is why I want another LoR. Days ago I contacted a professor from one of the universities I am going to apply, sending him my thesis and asking to work under him in some project he may assign. He turned me down, but wanted me to contact him when I apply (could be a good sign).

Obviously he did, since he barely knows me and I am even not sure to accept the admission from his university (if I luckily get accepted). The fact that he turned me down makes me think. Should I contact more professors? I mean if he accepts me, gives me some project and ultimately I do not go to his university, would it make him angry? And is the chance of I having a LoR from a famous professor in this way high?

This leads me to another option. I can go to my current university and strengthen my research with a professor there to get a stronger LoR. One drawback is that he is not as good as professors I may contact via email and he works in a different area, so basically I have to learn from scratch (my area and his are both algebra, though).

I know I ask a lot of questions here. Hope you can give me an insight into this. Thank you

MathCat
Posts: 177
Joined: Thu Oct 23, 2014 12:17 am

Re: Letter of recommendation from a professor who barely knows me

Postby MathCat » Sat Jul 21, 2018 1:14 am

You should not expect that a professor that you don't know at all will give you a project to work on before you have accepted an offer at their university. I would say the comment to contact him when you apply is so that he can see what your application is like before committing to anything - I wouldn't read much into it.

I'm a bit confused by your post. Are you expecting to get a LOR from a professor you don't know who you just email out of the blue? I think you would be extremely unlikely to find anyone who would say yes to such a request, and even then, how is it going to be better than the letter from your department? "Barely knows me" is better than "doesn't know me at all, we haven't even met". Also, don't focus on getting a letter from a famous person - if they don't know you at all, that letter will be worthless. It's better to have a letter from somebody who actually knows you, at least a bit.

If you are not applying for a few months, you could try to get to know your 3rd recommender a bit better in the mean time. I would say you should still apply to other universities with your current 3 letters, though. You may get accepted anyway!

Why would you stay at your current university? (E.g. would you be getting a Masters degree?) Do you mean extending your bachelors one more year? Unless you are actually interested in this professor's area, it seems like it's not a good use of your time.

namvuong
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2018 12:36 pm

Re: Letter of recommendation from a professor who barely knows me

Postby namvuong » Sat Jul 21, 2018 2:23 pm

MathCat wrote:You should not expect that a professor that you don't know at all will give you a project to work on before you have accepted an offer at their university. I would say the comment to contact him when you apply is so that he can see what your application is like before committing to anything - I wouldn't read much into it.

I'm a bit confused by your post. Are you expecting to get a LOR from a professor you don't know who you just email out of the blue? I think you would be extremely unlikely to find anyone who would say yes to such a request, and even then, how is it going to be better than the letter from your department? "Barely knows me" is better than "doesn't know me at all, we haven't even met". Also, don't focus on getting a letter from a famous person - if they don't know you at all, that letter will be worthless. It's better to have a letter from somebody who actually knows you, at least a bit.

If you are not applying for a few months, you could try to get to know your 3rd recommender a bit better in the mean time. I would say you should still apply to other universities with your current 3 letters, though. You may get accepted anyway!

Why would you stay at your current university? (E.g. would you be getting a Masters degree?) Do you mean extending your bachelors one more year? Unless you are actually interested in this professor's area, it seems like it's not a good use of your time.


In my university in Vietnam, we complete our course in July and receive the bachelor degree in October. Then it is natural (I think) to apply at the end of that year.

MathCat
Posts: 177
Joined: Thu Oct 23, 2014 12:17 am

Re: Letter of recommendation from a professor who barely knows me

Postby MathCat » Mon Jul 23, 2018 3:39 am

If you're going to have a 'gap year', it makes more sense to try to do some work/reading with the 3rd professor, then. More breadth in your algebra knowledge will be helpful, even if you don't end up wanting to do what that professor does. (I'm assuming you want to continue studying algebra.)

Schools should be fairly familiar with international dates not lining up exactly with the usual ones in North America. If you don't want to wait an extra year, it might be possible to begin a PhD program before you officially have your degree, provided you can show all requirements for the degree have been met (e.g. transcript after completing?). You might consider looking into this (probably means emailing graduate coordinators of departments you want to apply to) if you do want to begin earlier.




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