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Help: No recommendation letter from my PhD supervisor

Hello everyone, I am pursuing my PhD study and will graduate in 2010. I plan to apply for 2010 fall MFE, but I don't want my supervisor to know my application for some reasons.

So I will have no recommendations from my PhD supervisor. Instead, I ask one visiting professor who works with me to talk about my PhD work.

Is it a serious problem for my application if there is no recommendation from my PhD supervisor? What is your opinion? The application deadline is approaching! Thanks for your help!
There is no requirement that you must get recommendation from your advisor. Some even got friends, co-workers to write them letters.
The point is to get the people who can write the best possible letter for you. Those are the people who know you very well academically, socially, professionally, personally, or any lly you can get.

I'm sure you got your own reason to not use your advisor but keep in mind that you joining some MFE program will come out sooner or later and it may be more awkward to face him then than being upfront now.

Just a counter example from my own experience. When I was doing my PhD and found out about the MFE career, I asked my advisor to write a letter of recommendation along with several other of my professors. He gladly helped even with the fact I will no longer work for him or see him for that matter.

And what do I know. When I finish my MFE, the person who hired me also got his Math PhD under my advisor. It's a small world out here and everyone knows everyone.

My advice is to be upfront with your advisor about what you want to do. It's not like you are doing anything illegal. Just follow what you think is best for you, your future, your family. If you do the right things, you will be able to see eye to eye with others.


Market Crises= Gray Hair
I'm in the same boat- just in a professional context with my manager. From what I've read, most MBA programs understand stuff like this, and I'd like to think a lot of financial engineering programs understand it as well. My manager is a brilliant technologist, but he doesn't show his cards when it comes to what he thinks of his employees. Hence, he's not first in line to write my letter of reference since I can't trust him to write a strong one as much as I can other people.

Andy raises an excellent point. You don't want to catch your advisor by total surprise. I'm assuming your graduation will happen before you leave for your MFE, but if it doesn't or if he's expecting you to do something completely different, you should start easing your advisor into the possibility of your departure for an MFE program.

Smart people have long memories, especially on Wall Street and in academia. Just make sure they remember you as honest and straightforward.
Thanks for your comments, Andy, almostcutmyhair and GoIllini. It is amazing that you can understand my situation so well.

To Andy:
I appreciate your view that I should be upfront with my supervisor, because finally I need to tell him everything.

Actually, I need to finish a project before I can graduate. Now I just start this project and no one can say for sure when I can finish it. So I feel that it is too early to tell my supervisor I will leave next fall. My plan is to see the application result in March 2010. At that time, I think I am able to almost finish the project. Then I can tell my supervisor I want to leave after summer if I can get an admission. So there are still 6 months from March to September. I am not sure whether it is too late to let my supervisor know.

To almostcutmyhair:
Fortunately, I am not an PhD from anthropology or nursing, I am PhD in Computer Science. I want a MFE to strengthen my background further.

To GoIllini:
Yes, we have similar situations. It will be great if the MFE can also understand as the MBA programs do. But different from your case, I can trust my supervisor, my problem is that I can not know my graduation time for sure. I feel it is too early to tell my supervisor I want to leave next fall because no one knows when I can finish the project. I want to tell him when the project is almost done, maybe in March when I can also know the application results.

So, dear friends, I want to hear your opinions on the following questions:

1. Now, I feel it is too early to tell my supervisor that I want to leave next fall because no one can guarantee I can finish the project by that time. I want to tell him I want to leave when the project is almost done, perhaps in March 2010 in my opinion. At that time, there are still 6 months before I leave. Is it too late to let my supervisor know then? Am I honest and straightforward? What should I do?

2. If there is no recommendation from my PhD supervisor in my application, will the MFE program call my department and find my supervisor to talk with?
It does not take a lot of time to determine if an applicant is subpar using a couple of points on a check list. That applicant will go straight to a Reject pile.
The rest will go into a "Further review" stack and more people will look at it.
How long would it take to determine if applicant with 720Q GRE, 2.8 GPA, got C on Calculus I, no experience should be further considered?
Not very long, given the volume of applications received. But there's no saying if the remnant of one of these potential reject's application reveals that he/she went on to form a start-up which did some ground breaking work. I guess it's ok to screen on the basis of a few check points provided they are representative of the skills that the program is looking for. In any case, the applicants should be given some idea of the cut-offs and weightage of the credentials which will be evaluated. It will help them make a more informed decision on whether to apply or not.
Just to be clear: the checklist is only a metaphor and all part of the application is looked at, or "carefully reviewed" as you put it. My point is that the whole process has been highly tuned and very efficient that it takes very little time to evaluate an application.
There will never be an official "cut off score, grade", or published weight of each component. The reason is simple: why would you turn away potential applicants who may have lower score but maybe "he/she went on to form a start-up which did some ground breaking work". However, it can be learned from the published average GRE, GPA of the incoming students.

Not to go off-topic, this whole discussion may have some value to the OP. That is to get the people who can represent you best in letter. You have to stand out from the crowd. Your essay and letter must make the program want you really bad.
You have to stand out from the crowd. Your essay and letter must make the program want you really bad.

Agreed. From a previous post, I inferred that perhaps applicants were screened initially based on a "check-list", which wasn't inclusive of the letters or the essay. But if this is just a "metaphor", and each application is in fact reviewed in its entirety, it's fine.