FujiApple

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Jun 23, 2006
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Hello,

I've been putting off secondaries because I can't decide what to do about my LoRs. Here's what I have:

Art History lecturer: this is a good one
Biochem professor: another good one
The PI of my current lab: this is a great one
The PI of my former lab: I'm really not sure what this letter is like...

So.. I worked in my former lab for 3 years as an undergrad, but I hardly ever got to speak to the PI, and I really don't know what he thinks of me. I worked hard... and I put in 2 or 3 times more hours than I signed up for... but despite my efforts, I didn't get any good data. So, I'm worried that my former PI will write me a mediocre letter.

Here's my question: Will it hurt me if I don't send his letter to schools? Will they wonder about this glaring absence in my letter stack? Should I risk it and send in a "blah" letter? Or will the spectacular letter from my current PI suffice? (I've worked for the current PI for 2 summers and I'll be his lab tech for a year)

Thanks for your help on this!
 

leahmaria

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Jun 25, 2006
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While I don't think it would be a glaring absence, I would include it if he's agreed to write it. Do mediocre letters hurt?

I think that you should try to get another science prof to write a letter, too.
 
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FujiApple

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Thanks for the reply. So do mediocre letters hurt, or do adcoms put them aside and focus on the good letters?
 
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Instatewaiter

But... there's a troponin
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Apr 28, 2006
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Mediocre letters will hurt an application significantly. You send in these letters so that the Adcoms get an idea of what other people think of you, especially people who have taught/supervised you. In addition to the interview it lets them know the kind of person you are outside of the numbers. If you have one in there that says you are average or even worse that is a bad recommendation, it will not look good when everyone else has 3 or 4 gleaming letters. Remember, you are the one who gets to choose who writes the LORs for you. Because of this adcoms expect pretty good letters.

Since you have another PI's letter and one that is more recent, I doubt you will need it. The fact that the old PI didn't know you that well makes his letter vague and undirected. So even if the PI says some nice things it will come off as though he doesn't really know you. If you are really worried about it, you could send in all of the letters or better yet just ask the original PI if he would consider his letter to be strongly in your favor or just a mediocre letter.
 

braluk

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it's your responsibility to ask if someone will write you a STRONG letter of recommendation (you have a right to ask if they will write you a good one). The fact that you have a weak one, in adcoms eyes, would probably signal to them that you barely found enough professors/people ANYWHERE to write you a good one at all, since theyll probably assume that you did your duty of finding strong LORs
 
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