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« Would straight to on-campus interviews be better? | Main | Reader query: obtaining outside letters »

08/12/2015

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Lost

I have somewhat related question: are there people from which it would look bad if you *didn't* have a letter?

I ask because I had two advisers in graduate school and two advisers as a postdoc. If it looks bad to not include the letter of an adviser, then I'm rapidly approaching a large number of letters.

Marcus Arvan

Lost: I can only answer on the basis of personal experience, but I think it does look bad if you don't have letters from certain people--specifically your advisors.

A few years ago, after getting two new outside letters, I dropped one of my grad adviser's letters from my portfolio. I did so because I worried both that (A) I had too many letters (seven), and (B) his letter might not be the strongest. Alas, that year, my # of interviews precipitously dropped. The next two years, when I included his letter again (using up to seven letters), my # of interviews soared. So, although this is admittedly an anecdotal experience, it was a striking one. The number of interviews I had correlated strongly with whether his letter was in my file--and I certainly didn't appear to be hurt by sending up to seven letters.

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