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Order of Recommendations


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The professor I worked for the longest is in a related, but not my exact field, it was the longest ago, and he was not very active in lab.

I worked with him for 2 years, vs. 3-5 months for the 2 who know me better. Is it okay to put him as my 3rd reference?? I have a 4th.

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Wait, how many letters total are you submitting and who is this fourth person? If ranking matters at all--it may not--then I would personally put him last. I worked as a low level lab tech for four years for a prof whose work I didn't care about but he wrote me a glowing reference. I rank him below profs whose research I was much more interested and involved in but for a much shorter time period.

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Oh I forgot. I have 5. The one I haven't worked for will give me a glowing rec. He's helping me write my SoP. But, he's only in a related field too. Idk whether he should be my 3rd or 4th, since I never worked with him.

My friend who got into duke's Chem PhD program told me that if I didn't put him first that it'd make it seem like there's something wrong... because I did work for him for 2 years vs. 3-6 months.

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For order in the applications, I think I stuck with alphabetical. I doubt that rec order matters. On my CV, I just listed my profs by department seniority, even though I've done most of my collaborating with the assistant prof (he's listed third).

For my CV, I personally listed them in descending chronological order of when I worked with them, which coincided with their relative "importance."

The only thing I've seen so far where professor order mattered was on the NSF fellowship app where you could have up to five letters submitted but only three would be read--in case one or two professors ended up not submitting their letters. Unless your applications specifically say otherwise, order of professors is the last thing I would worry about.

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I did chronological on my CV, but I've got 5 letters... and 2 are usually required, 3 recommended. That means that I have to submit the last 2 as supplementaries and they might not get read.

I read a short letter from my #1 slot today because he is trying to help me petition to take an additional grad course next quarter. He said I was "easily as good or better than a typical first-year graduate student". :D Maybe my first 2 will get me there, and the rest are just icing. I hope.

I think I'm just biased by the amount of interaction and feedback I have with each professor. I'm leaning toward having that PI I've barely interacted with but worked for the longest as my 3rd and the professor who will definitely write something kick-ass as my 4th. I know it might not make or break it for me... but it might.

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