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Asking for a recommendation letter after 3 years of no contact

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I want to apply to epidemiology programs this cycle (I am down to the wire here, I know), and one of the key professors I have in mind for a recommendation letter was my Epidemiology professor whose class I got an A in and was selected as a Teaching Assistant for the following semester. 

The problem is, when I was taking her class, someone had raised their hand to ask if she writes recommendation letters for students if they're taking gap time before applying (or something along those lines), and she had replied saying that if we'd like her to write a recommendation for us in that situation, we should contact her once a year until that time. 

Now...I didn't do that - looking back at my emails, I had contacted her a year after I TA'd for her to ask if she'd be a job reference in fall of 2017, which she had happily agreed to do.  Then I didn't have any correspondence in 2018, and the next time I reached out was April 2019 to ask if she'd be a job reference and if she'd be a recommendation writer if I applied that fall, which I didn't end up doing - she didn't reply back. 

So anyways it's been basically 3 years since a successful interaction with her, and I'm wondering how people would recommend reaching out to her now and what would be a good way to phrase my ask.

Edited by jsoruv4
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I would focus on asking as soon as possible rather than wording it perfectly. It sounds like this would be a pleasant surprise if she says yes (given what she said) but you never know, people do change their minds! I would acknowledge that you haven’t been in contact, apologize if you want but no excuses, and that you completely understand if she is not comfortable doing it.


Do you have a backup plan if she does not respond? (How long are you willing to wait for a reply before asking a backup?) otherwise it may get even more down to the wire! 

good luck!!

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I agree with CatMeow1234. One thing to add: You should contact this professor, and a backup, now. Like today. Apps are due in 3 weeks and we have a major holiday in that time window. The longer you wait, the less likely anyone is to say yes because there is going to be such a time crunch. 

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Hey CatMeow1234 and hopeful2020PhD. thanks so much for your responses.  I sent out the email last night, as well as to the other two letter writers I'm hopeful about.  I in fact don't have a back up plan, so my course of action if she says no (or if someone else does) would be to wait until next year to apply and ask my employer over the next year to be my last reference, or ask the person who declined again if it's just a timing issue.


Thanks again for your input!

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