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quality of LOR affected?


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Long story short-- the LOR that I was expecting to be the strongest may end up being the weakest... unless I'm just being paranoid.

I'm applying to experimental psych master's programs and this professor is basically against any such programs. She thinks they are useless and do nothing to help boost chances of getting into PhD programs. The only reason I'm applying to MA instead of PhD programs is because I know I would have a very hard time getting into any PhD programs at this point... my stats are not great (3.6ish GPA, 560 Q/600 V GRE, only a few semesters of undergrad research experience). She thinks I'd be better off getting an RA job somewhere for a year or two to get more research experience and then apply to PhD programs. But I applied to TONS of RA jobs last summer/this fall and only had a handful of interviews and no offers. I don't think she realizes how competitive it is these days.

I TAed for this professor my senior year and worked with her on a few small research projects. She LOVES ME (or... she did? :/ ), brags about me all the time to others, probably overestimates my abilities. I was really counting on a glowing LOR from her but now I'm worried she'll let her disapproval of my life plans come through in her letter. :/ Funny thing is, her biggest (only?) criticism of me has always been that I lack confidence in my work and don't advocate enough for myself... so here I am, finally confident in what I want to do, advocating for myself, and she's not seeing that. So frustrating.

Like I said, this was suppsed to be my strongest letter. My second letter will be fairly strong I think (professor I had for senior research seminar) but my last one will probably just be generic positive as it's a professor who doesn't know me as well.

Maybe I'm just being paranoid though... maybe she'll come through in the end. Anyone else have experience with an LOR writer not being completely supportive of your specific plans?

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Hmmm... let me put it this way:

She really likes you, and advocates for your success.

Despite the fact she doesn't support MA programs, she agreed to write a letter for you anyway.

She worries about you not being confident enough and showing off how great you are.

All I could think after reading that was... does that really sound like someone who would purposely sabotage you just because of her own personal opinion? (I mean only you know her personally, or well enough to decide that but it doesn't sound like it at all from what you've described).

Most professors, if they think they can't write a letter that will really help you will tell you so. It's very rare that someone agrees to write a letter and purposely tanks someone. If she agreed to write a letter and you've explained that you had trouble finding a job in the field, she might be reluctant about doing it - but still wants to help how she can.

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I totally agree with modernity.

Also, did she tell you that going for the MA program was a bad idea, or that doing what she suggested was just the better option? Perhaps it's just the latter, but it's just coming across as the former. If she really doesn't think you're doing the right thing, I would think she would try and keep that between you and her, not her and the admissions committee. She should still say really great things about you, regardless of what you're doing.

And as for me, one of my letter writers didn't seem really enthused about my plans, but didn't say anything. But I think that has more to do with the way the field I'm interested in is evolving.

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It really depends on the type of person the professor is. I have a sort of similar situation. My senior thesis advisor is one of my LOR writers and he is cognitive anthropology but I decided to go cognitive psychology. He always makes comments about my being seduced by cushy labs over getting dirty and about what cognitive anthropologists are at the schools I am applying to. But he told me he could write me a strong LOR even if he thinks that I should be applying to anthro programs or at least to work with psychologists who have been known to consort with anthropologists. And I am confident he has. If your professor is as invested in you and proud to have had you as her student, I hope that she is similarly able to overcome her own biases.

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Thanks guys.

After talking to her a little more and getting feedback from others I think it'll be okay. She is a person with very strong opinions and she is not afraid to express them. I explained a little more about why I want to apply to these programs (more than just "I don't feel competitive enough for PhD programs at this point") and gave her some concrete data on the success of graduates of these programs (as a stats prof she is always looking for numbers :P) and she was a little more convinced. She really knew nothing about these specific programs, her "all MA programs are useless" thing I think was more based on her idea of general psych master's programs that are more geared towards counseling and don't offer a lot of opportunity for student research/mentor-based relationships with profs. Anyway, I think I just threw her off a little by not agreeing with her on this, and standing strong in what I think is best for me (b/c like I said, this has never been easy for me, normally I'd just be like "you're right, I'll do it this way if you think that's best" even if I knew it wasn't). I am trying to believe her when she says she will still write me a strong LOR.

Edited by StatsNerd
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