Jump to content

LOR from professor outside of my major


Recommended Posts

Hi! I am applying to masters programs in biomedical engineering and I'm coming from a school that didn't have an engineering program (I majored in biochem and mat sci). I know I will get 2 strong letters from professors I did research with, and I also know I will get a good rec from my professor of science communication (science journalism class), but I'm not sure that admissions will think it's worth much. My other option for my 3rd rec is my advisor, but I don't know him as well as I know this other professor and never took classes of his, either. So do I ask my science communication professor or my advisor? 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So first of all, if you're quite certain the first two letters will be strong, the third one shouldn't be a huge factor either way, so I wouldn't sweat too much about it. When you put in their info into the system, the page typically asks what's their relationship to you - if you write "college academic advisor" or "science communications course instructor", the app reader knows that this letter is less important than the other two that say "research mentor".

If I were you, I would do the science comm professor, again given you're confident about it being a "good rec". In general, it's definitely more important to avoid a bad letter; if you're choosing between two moderately helpful ones, both could be good choices. Also, if one of these two people is much more experienced/senior than the other, I'd lean towards a more experienced recommender, because (1) they have a better idea of what the admission committee want to hear and (2) they're able to say "in my X years of teaching and mentoring experience I've seen over Y number of students and this one is among the top Z%" whereas the other one simply isn't able to say so.

Another strategy I've seen is to actually ask both of them, and use them differently for different apps. For example, say the advisor worked at one particular school you're applying to, use him for that particular app. If another program specifically states they want to see science-related community service/volunteer/advocacy stuff, use the science comm professor's. Some app systems allow an optional 4th - use both. It's always good to have a back up in case one falls sick or somehow can't submit things in time. In the end, as long as the two recommenders each gets asked to fill out at least 1 link, they shouldn't feel like they wasted their time writing that letter.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are multiple things people look for in a letter of rec. Some of those may include your knowledge or skill in the particular field you're applying for, but others will be about your character and personality. I'd say it's always better to get a letter from someone who knows you well outside your field of focus, than someone in your field that doesn't know you very well. 

They could write about how well you work with others, how hard working you are, how good of a writer your are, etc. ( all of these things are incredibly important in grad school). I would say ask your professor. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. See our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use