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No reference letter from thesis supervisor? (Bachelors)


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Hello everyone,

I graduated from an Hons BA program in psych in June 2017 and I applied to 6 schools in total. However, my HUGE problem is, I could not get a reference letter from my honours thesis supervisor :( and this literally made me give up grad school altogether (applied just because my parents wanted me to)

The other two references I got were pretty good, I also have a great GPA but my GRE scores are very average. I have good research background and I even joined the lab of the PI i want to work with.

So far, I received 2 interview requests and in the first interview, the very first thing PI asked was, "Why didnt you include a letter from your supervisor?"


1- How should I explain this situation without sounding like I blame my supervisor?

She went on leave unexpectedly and I couldnt communicate well with her via email (I needed a lot of support for the stats part and there was no one in the lab to help me out, I was going through a hard time and I could not perform my best)

2- Would getting a reference letter from the PI of the newest lab I joined increase my chances of getting in?

3- How can I solve this issue altogether for the future?




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Is your supervisor back from leave?

If she is still on leave, then you can say that your supervisor went on leave before you applied and is still on leave, so is not available to write you a letter.

If she is no longer on leave, then you should contact her now and ask for a letter.

This should answer Q1 and Q3 that you have. For the 2nd question, sure it would help. If you didn't have this letter then you'd likely be asked "why don't you have a letter from your most recent lab?". Generally, you will be expected to have letters from your most recent supervisors. You will still be expected to get a letter from your thesis supervisor though. The big exception is if something that is not your fault happened and your supervisor is unfairly withholding a letter from you. In this case, you should get another letter writer to explain what happened.

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