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Thrown under a bus...Continue?


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I've just been thrown under a bus by my supervisor from my most recent internship. The internship from day 1 (year long mind you), was riddled with administrative red tape and made completing both my research and clinical work an absolute nightmare. Nonetheless, I had spoken to my supervisor throughout the year of my intentions to continue on to apply for PhD programs. She had said no problem many times, had said she would write the rec, and that I should keep in mind that I'll need to draft a letter. Flashforward 1 year, I email with an update and mention that I'll be sending her info about the programs shortly. She says that's fine. A few weeks later I send out the letter officially requesting a recommendation, and I don't hear back from her for a week. Then I get an email saying she won't write the recommendation. I now have 2/3 recommenders already writing letters....with about 2.5 weeks left to either find another recommender or toss in the towel.

Other things regarding my application: I'm applying for very competitive programs, and I know that my GRE is not up to snuff (660/640/5) and I hadn't taken the "recommended" subject test either. But I thought I would apply anyway and see how things went.


1. Is it crucial to have my direct supervisor write a recommendation? As it stands, she's made it very clear that she won't write one.

2. Theoretically, I could track down 1 or 2 other people who might be able to write a recommendation on short notice, but that would be for work/research I did 3+ years ago...

3. Should I just take this as a sign and throw in the towel? Spend the year working, and getting better GRE general and subject tests, and then find a recommendation from there?

PS. This refusal for a recommendation came out of nowhere and I was shocked; no indication of this at all throughout the year. She did send some constructive criticism, so I can appreciate the candor and will learn from it. BUT, I'm hurt that what I had thought was a decent relationship obviously was not.

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1. It may matter, but as long as she's not your master's thesis advisor which is generally required, I wouldn't say it's crucial.

2 and 3. I would track them down, apologize for the short notice, and let them know how much you would appreciate it if they could possibly help you out. Seeing as your supervisor seems unwilling to write a letter now, this is not something that is likely to change in the future.

Finally, if your undergrad grades are good and you've got good experience, then that can make up for the GRE (not sure what requirements are for your major, for engineering high Quant. scores are essential, while a 640 in Verbal would be way more than enough). Make sure you have an excellent and professional SOP and that your recommenders can write a really good letter for you.

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