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Who should I choose for my third LoR?


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Hi,

I'm applying to PhD programmes in statistics after an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a failed master's in a very different mathematical area. My adviser in said master's and a professor from the department with whom I took one class and two seminars are going to write rec letters for me, but I'm not sure which of these routes is best for my third rec letter:


1. A prof with whom I took a relevant class and got a great grade (99 in probability and 95 in real analysis, two different profs) but otherwise doesn't know me very well.

2. A TA from two classes (probablity and calc 1) who knows me better, has already finished his PhD and is now doing a PhD in mathematical data science at a top 50 institution.

3. A lecturer with whom I worked as a TA for five semesters and created reworked class notes.

Thanks!

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13 hours ago, SteelBite said:

Hi,

I'm applying to PhD programmes in statistics after an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a failed master's in a very different mathematical area. My adviser in said master's and a professor from the department with whom I took one class and two seminars are going to write rec letters for me, but I'm not sure which of these routes is best for my third rec letter:


1. A prof with whom I took a relevant class and got a great grade (99 in probability and 95 in real analysis, two different profs) but otherwise doesn't know me very well.

2. A TA from two classes (probablity and calc 1) who knows me better, has already finished his PhD and is now doing a PhD in mathematical data science at a top 50 institution.

3. A lecturer with whom I worked as a TA for five semesters and created reworked class notes.

Thanks!

First, I am concerned that the failed Mathematics might adversely affect your application. Make sure you can account for this "failure" that you mentioned. Admissions might wonder how you expect to take on PhD level work and responsibilities if you failed your Masters programme.

Do not have a TA write a recommendation for a PhD application. It is ALWAYS best to have a Tenured Professor or Lecturer do so. 

The best option I see is the 3rd choice. I am assuming you did a good job for your lecturer so he/she/they should enough to say about your work ethics as a TA and a budding scholar and educator. 

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That's a fair point. I actually had great grades, especially in the classes most relevant to my research, but insecurities caused a lot of other issues which led to me dropping out. I have worked out those issues and have found a field in which my interest is more robust, so I am far more confident regarding my ability to succeed at the moment.

Perhaps I should mention that said lecturer is not a research professor, but rather a long-time external lecturer. Either way, thank you for your input.

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The other poster is right about a Professor versus a TA. I am curious, though: you mention a TA for a class on probability, and a professor for a class on probability. Were these the same classes, or separate? If they were the same, you could ask both the TA and the prof to write a letter they would both sign - or, approach the professor first, and they will likely ask the TA for further input, anyway (I have written a few paragraphs for profs to use in letters for students I TA'd for - it happens all the time). If they're separate, I might still ask one of the profs first, and then try the lecturer if neither thinks they can write a strong letter.

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