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Should I Still Ask For a LoR From This Professor? Request Suggestions!

Jess Q

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Hi guys! I truly need your suggestions! I am now applying for a PhD program and am worrying a lot about my selection of LoRs. The thing is I talked with one of my professors in the department about my PhD plan when I was a current student and I got a A and ranked 2 in this professor’s class. He is fairly helpful to students and recommended students including me many job chances. However, he said he was reluctant to write a LoR for a current student when I asked him a LoR for the PhD application and hoped me could understand it. But he agreed to provide a reference letter if I planned to search a job. After my graduation, I talked with him again about the LoR and told him that I would apply for some PhD programs including my own law school (I was planning to put him as a potential supervisor). Now I am not a “current student” but I could still feel his reluctance (hem and haw, if I got it right). He finally said that “I could write you a LoR, but you know I can’t write my strong preference to the admission, whether you can be admitted totally depends on the committee... I can only write you a general LoR”…

Although I was a quite positive student in his two courses and got two A (ranked top 3) in his class, I am now so confused with his attitude and what does a “general” LoR mean? Does it mean he would not say anything good for me? (I guess that would be horrible...)

Should I  still ask for LoR from him?  (He enjoys a pretty good reputation in the research area that I am applying for, and I got a better performance in his two courses than others. so these are the reasons that I feel hard to give up his LoR T.T) Would the situation be better if I forward my research proposal to him? Anything can compensate this?

I am worrying that I did not understand what he said correctly as an international student, and I greatly appreciate if anyone would like to give me some suggestions. Thank you again for your time and kind help!

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It is entirely possible that something got lost in translation if English is not your first language, what exactly did he say?  If his exact words were "I can write you a general LOR" then that means he'll write you one, but it won't be glowing and state that he strongly recommends you for graduate study.  Instead he'll say general things like "Jess Q performed well in my classes," "Jess Q is interested in the field and intends to pursue a PhD at your school," or "Jess Q is suitable for graduate study."  None of those say anything bad, but they aren't amazing either.  Ideally you want your LORs written by someone who is going to rave about you, so if there is someone else who can do that then consider asking them instead.

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Hi MarineBluePsy, thank you very much for your message! You're right, I think I definitly missed something before he said he would write a general LoR. He used many phrases like "you know... well you know" which made me feel confused. But I felt it might be impolite to ask any reason even though I didn't know, and I assume that it might be hard for him to say anything about my research capacity since our class was tested by exam... I will probably ask one more LoR from another professor like you suggested. Btw, do you think it would be better if I forward him my research proposal and talk more about the topic (Let's assume I have a good research proposal :)hahaha ) Thank you again for your help! Have a great day:)

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