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Is this a good LOR, or is it just "meh"?


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     I'm currently applying for a research assistant position in a visual cognition lab. I've already submitted 3 strong letters of rec from people I've been working with in the visual cognition lab at LSU, but since they're all going to say more or less the same things about me, I figured adding in a 4th recommendation might be a good idea in order to add some variety into the mix. Therefore, I asked my former medical physics prof for one as well. He just sent me a copy of the letter he sent, and I wanted to get your thoughts. I'm also planning to use him as a reference for grad school applications, so this letter will likely resemble the one he'll be sending then. I let my nerves get the best of me during the GRE (felt like I was sky diving for 4 hours straight) resulting in a disappointing score: Verbal: 90th percentile and Quant:...40th percentile. Since his course required a strong grasp of some pretty complex mathematical concepts and I got the top grade, I figured it'd be a good idea to include a letter from him to show that I'm not mathematically challenged. 

     Upon reading the letter, I can't tell how strong it is. It's definitely not weak; however, I have to admit that I don't really have much experience with evaluating letters like this. Anyway, this post is long enough, so I won't waste any more of your time.

I was just wondering if I could get your thoughts about it, and where you'd place it on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being very weak and 10 being very strong). Thanks in advance. Note: for the sake of anonymity I've changed the names in the letter .



Dear Dr. Who,

I am pleased to provide a recommendation in strong support of Mr. James Bond’s application for a full-time research assistant position in your lab. I have known Mr. Bond since January of 2012, when he enrolled as a senior student in my course at Made-Up State University (MUSU). The objective of this course is to introduce the student to the various applied aspects of (gives course description). Mr. Bond and I have kept in contact since then.

Mr. Bond is an enthusiastic, dedicated, and determined student. His assignments were always completed in a deliberate, organized, and thoughtful fashion. His approaches to complicated problems were inventive, methodical, and thorough. He excelled in all aspects of my course. Mr. Bond met deadlines and was helpful and supportive of his classmates. He consistently scored in the top of my class and demonstrated not only a natural intellectual ability, but also a keen intellectual curiosity. He never hesitated to spend additional time on a basic concept until he was satisfied with his level of understanding of the material. Mr. Bond received an “A” for my course and I would rate him in the top 10% of all undergraduate students I have interacted with over the past ten years at MUSU. His impressive overall grade point average proves his excellent scientific comprehension. He has received academic awards (Chancellor’s Honor Roll and Dean’s List) during his studies at MUSU. He has also been actively involved in research activities since January, 2012.

Complementing his abundant natural talents, Mr. Bond is an industrious, polite, and self-motivated person. He is compassionate, dependable, and trustworthy. He exercises mature judgment in his decisions and is responsible. He has a friendly personality and a cooperative spirit and gets along fabulously with the faculty and the students.

Based on his excellent academic performance, related research experience, and fine character, I expect that Mr. Bond will make significant contributions to his field. I therefore highly recommend Mr. James Bond for this position. If you have any questions regarding him, please feel free to contact me.


Dr. Strangelove

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That all looks positive. I see the "top 10% of undergraduates" and "provide a recommendation in strong support" (which you can't really improve upon). There are no ambiguous statements I can see that would suggest he has doubts about you, either.

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While he has a good opinion of you, it's a letter that suggests that you did well in class, but does not provide any mention of research potential. Depending on what your lab wants to hear this could be good or bad.

An admissions officer from CMU has this to say about letters of rec:

"Which letter do you think is stronger? It turns out that Letter 2 is very strong. Letter 1 actually

counts as 0. At CMU we mark all letters like letter 1 with the acronym D.W.I.C.. This stands for

“Did Well In Class” which counts for 0, since we already know from the student’s transcript that

he did well in class. By contrast, student Y’s letter gives us a lot of information. It explains that

the reason student Y didn’t do better in class was that he was busy doing research. It also tells

us that student Y started doing research on his own initiative, and that he is quite good at doing

research. The professor was impressed enough with student Y’s ideas that he took him on as a

student researcher despite student Y not having high grades."


It depends on what you're applying to, since you're going for an RA spot in a lab and this post was about Ph.D admissions.

Edited by zecone13
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Definitely remove the identifying information. 


I'd be really pissed if I was a professor, and a letter of rec I posted showed up online, including my phone number!


That said, this isn't a bad rec, but it's definitely just a DWIC letter (as mentioned). It pretty much just regurgitates things that would be found through your CV and transcript. 

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Didn't catch the phone number change. 


Bond is obviously a made up name, but the course, school, department, GPA are probably not changed. 


Which makes the letter very obvious to the writer. 

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