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Stupid applications stupid need for LoRs stupid PhDs



I had a pretty bad experience with a letter writer today. After I confirmed with her several weeks ago that she was willing to write, I immediately registered her for the online applications. At the same time I sent an email to tell her the timeframe so she didn't get stressed from me flooding her inbox. In the same email, I said that a couple of programmes required paper letters and that I'd have the forms etc to her soon. Then a couple of weeks later I sent an email saying that actually one of the remaing letters needed to be sent to an email address, and (again) I'd have paper forms for other schools for her soon. The day after my first deadline, she uploaded all but one of the online recs. This meant she missed the deadline for the one that needed emailed. Not one to stress, I figured she'd get to it eventually.

Today, I went to drop off the forms for paper applications, and I had a cover note mentioning that there was still an online app to go (deadline mid jan; so no pressure) and could she please send the letter as an email attachment (this was the one overdue).

So after I politely and deferntially told her that I was at there to drop off the forms, her response was a grunt of dissapointment. "So much work to do, I'll get to it later" "that's fine, I'm so sorry to be a pain" etc etc. She acted as if I was adding extra schools at the last minute, rather than following up on what had already been agreed (and a deadline that had passed). It's her who hasn't read/understood/remembered emails, but I'm the one who gets branded in her mind as demanding.

It's not that I don't get how busy she is or that she's doing me a favour. I really hate how the LoR part of the application makes us so dependent on other people. The process is designed to demand a lot of work not just from applicants, but from the letter writers. There's a post on the Chronicle Forums where a single professor has 120 LoR-related emails! The thing is, this recommender is no busier than the other two of mine are. If anything, my other recommenders have more rights to feel like I'm a pain in the rear because of how I know them - I'm this person's only MA advisee, while the others are my employers.

Sigh. Nearly over.


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One of my letter writers behaved in exactly the same way and he was my project adviser (who I worked for without any incentive but the research itself, for 2 whole years, for no course credit, nothing..). He acted in the same way, I have now stopped communication with him and also put a stop to the paper we were supposed to publish together, me as first author. One journal rejected it and then I told him that I didn't think the research was good enough for publication (which is the truth). So I ended it there. Its just not worth it when people don't respect you, even if you are just a student and they are professors.

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The letter writer may just be stressed with the overall work that needs to be completed. Do not get frustrated. Most importantly, adcomms allow late submissions of LoRs (if they are online or by email). This is generally true of most schools. I once had to call every admissions department to inquiry into a late LoR submission; each department was very receptive. Usually, the online systems don't close until a week or two after the deadline for letter writers.

I hope this helps.

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Don't let one bump ruin a mentorship or relationship with a colleague. The professors I am closest to are the ones always submitting things late. Also, it is always useful to have more than the needed number of recommenders...in case some applications allow more than the typical 3 letters or in case one writer is unable to submit.

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wow, just by reading your blog entry makes me feel less alone. i'm having similar situation with one of my LOR, she agreed to write a reference for both NSF GFRP and all of my grad school apps back in september. i totally understand that she might be slow in getting my letters in given that she was teaching a course last semester and her health status - but still, she has missed out 2 schools, one of them already notified me of interview but the letters never reached the respective schools. she turned in the letter for GFRP after i left a voice message in her cell and constantly tracking the status on that... i totally know how you feel about that.

sorry for all this ranting, but you are not alone! let us keep our hopes up and good luck to you.

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Lucky that you got few letters. One o my rec. assured me to submit a letter, and never responded. Applications, once submitted, do not allow for addition or change o rec. I really had to rush to my age old recommender (which I din wana use!), and got an extra rec. added to my applications! Though few of them mentioned it is too late, but the original recommender never replied back.

I feel he should not have agreed to write one at the first instance.

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