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LoR from Adjunct Faculty

zblockzblock Registered User Posts: 7 New Member
I only have a few options for my letters, and one of them is from an adjunct faculty member for our engineering department. He has been with the school for almost two decades and does not have his PhD. However, he did get his masters at Stanford. Does his letter lose credibility/impact since he isn't a full-time professor and does not have a PhD? I am close to the instructor and feel as if he will write me a strong letter, as I've had him for two of my classes that I've excelled in, and he was also our honor society's adviser. Should I look elsewhere for a letter?

Thanks,
A

Replies to: LoR from Adjunct Faculty

  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 12,472 Super Moderator
    edited August 30
    Is this for a PhD program or an MS program?
    Here's the thing: If he's your best option, he is better than nothing. He's also better than someone who doesn't know you well and can't comment on your work and potential.

    Without a PhD, he can't really credibly comment on your potential to complete a PhD program because he has not himself. But if he's been teaching at your university for two decades, he's probably seen a lot of students come through and has a good sense of who's an excellent student.
  • zblockzblock Registered User Posts: 7 New Member
    @juillet This is for an MS program. Preferably not for research.

    How about this then? Him versus a letter from a professor with a PhD that I am not that close with, but is willing to give me a letter just for getting an A in the class. What about an LoR from the principal of my firm who only holds a BS, but has been in the industry for over 30 years?
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 12,472 Super Moderator
    edited August 31
    If it's for an MS program, it's less of an issue. People with PhDs are still preferable, but not strictly necessary, especially if the MS program is more applied/professional.

    For a PhD program, I'd say definitely not about the principal of your firm. But for a professional MS program? It may be OK. @boneh3ad and @xraymancs will be able to comment better on this than me, since this is in their field (or a closely related one).
  • boneh3adboneh3ad Forum Champion Engineering Posts: 7,341 Forum Champion
    edited August 31
    I think you've already said most of what I would have said, @juillet. The familiarity with the student is important and will make up at least somewhat for not having a PhD (especially since this is an MS applicant). I'd probably weight a letter like that higher than one from a full professor who can really only say the student did well in their course.
  • zblockzblock Registered User Posts: 7 New Member
    Okay that being clear, I think I will aim to get two letters from professors with a PhD. My third letter would have to come from either of the following: the adjunct faculty with only a masters, my principal with a BS (he's put me on a couple of small projects already to solo few months out of undergrad so maybe he can expand on that in the letter?), and a professor I'm not that close with that I excelled in for ONE of his classes.

    Which of the three would be the ideal third choice? Unfortunately I do not have a third professor that I am close with.
  • ProfessorMom1ProfessorMom1 Registered User Posts: 355 Member
    For third letter use adjunct that knows you. FWIW, I have a PhD but never sign my name with that though my title would suggest I have one.
  • xraymancsxraymancs Forum Champion Graduate School Posts: 4,526 Forum Champion
    I would get a letter from the person who best knows how you will perform in the kind of program you are applying to. If this is a coursework based Masters program that would be the Adjunct faculty member who knows your academic strengths best.
  • zblockzblock Registered User Posts: 7 New Member
    @juillet @boneh3ad @ProfessorMom1 @xraymancs

    I just realized I have another option. My college adviser, who holds a PhD, had advised me for 3.5 out of the 4 years of my undergrad. I've only had one class with him, but I did go in a lot to talk about my future career and options. Should I still take the adjunct faculty member's letter over my adviser? This adviser is an engineering faculty also.
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 12,472 Super Moderator
    Did you do well in the adviser's class? He seems like a great choice for a letter writer.
  • zblockzblock Registered User Posts: 7 New Member
    No, I did not do so well... I got a B in his class 8-|
    I'm sure he is willing to write something up for me since I was pretty close to him.

    Question to all: Is it unethical if professors write a bit of fluff about you? Such as a bit of exaggerations. Are there professors that use templates for letters? Is that unethical? Should I be avoiding these types of letters?
  • boneh3adboneh3ad Forum Champion Engineering Posts: 7,341 Forum Champion
    You don't need to worry about whether a professor is writing fluff about you. Tryre going to write what they're going to write and it is largely out of your hands. Some might ask for you to write it and they will modify it, which always annoyed me but is pretty common.
  • ProfessorMom1ProfessorMom1 Registered User Posts: 355 Member
    I don’t use a template per se but do have a standard format that governs my recs. Most profs are going to re use some language or structure. We write many, many recs. As to the advisor vs adjunct letter, I still think the adjunct would be fine, particularly as a third letter when you have FT fac writing the first two.
  • xraymancsxraymancs Forum Champion Graduate School Posts: 4,526 Forum Champion
    I also write many letters and as an advisor, I sometimes write letters for students whom I have not had in a class. I will usually encourage a student to seek out another letter writer if I cannot write a reasonably strong letter. That does not mean that getting a B in my class will preclude my writing a solid letter. Much of the time the student's overall record is stronger than the grade in my class and if the student worked hard and took the class seriously I am happy to write a good letter.
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