Truthful Recommendation Letter

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Quote from: literarylioness13 on February 05, 2013,  3:41:39 am


But if the class was not on a topic absolutely essential to what the student is trying to achieve (for example, particle physics for a student wanting to do a PhD in Chemistry), qualities such as an ability to work under pressure, good time-management, dedication, ability to handle responsibilities, etc, might be a lot more important than having achieved a thorough mastery of the material. If I were having to choose, to supervise, from among two students, one a B student who if he wasn't so apathetic would easily be an A student, and an ill-prepared, maybe not very talented, but very hard-working C student, I'd take the C student. Besides, if whatever entity is requiring references isn't going to consider these things, then they're just wasting everyone's time - presumably they're getting a transcript or can check the GPA or whatever is applicable in the relevant jurisdiction, so they don't need references in the first place if they only care about grades. They're like that relative for whom "What do you think about X?" means "I want you to agree with me."

Maybe I'm misunderstood your post, but why would someone in a different field give a recommendation letter to a student in a different field for grad school? If a chemistry major came to me for a reference letter for grad school, even if the student was getting an A in my class, I would still refer him or her to his field. Why would my glowing review of the student's ability to master The Iliad be helpful to the student? If I was on a board looking for grad applicants and got a recommendation from a biology professor, I would think there was a problem. Even if another humanity professor gave a recommendation I would wonder:"Why couldn't this applicant get an English professor to recommend him?" It would smell fishy to me.

You might've had the student in several classes, some more closely related to the target program than others, or the student might've worked with you in some other capacity (undergraduate thesis, for example) doing work relevant to the target program, and also have taken courses not that essential. Also, programs typically ask for multiple references, so say two references from chemists and one from a physicist for chemistry program with strong interdisciplinary components might be entirely appropriate.


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