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When to Request LOR


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Hello. When is a good time to start contacting former professors to request letters of recommendation? My PhD applications are due in early December and will become available in the portal in September and October.

Do I wait until at least one of the universities’ application is available (so that I can submit their email addresses in the form and they can get notified), until ALL applications are available (so that they can get notified at the same time for all of them), or can I start contacting them now in the summer?

I’m not sure how specific the application instructions are. Do universities, particularly for PhD, have specific questions they want the recommenders to answer, or can recommenders just write a letter in advance and be ready to submit it once the application becomes available and they get notified?

Thank you!

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I haven't applied yet, but from what I understand I don't think that they will ask very different things for the LORs. After all, your recommenders will probably send their letters to more than one institution, and I doubt they have the time to write a different letter for every institution.

I read that it would be ideal if you could give your recommenders plenty of time, maybe try a month or two before your intended submission date. It would also be helpful if you could give them some materials, such as your CV, draft of the SOP, maybe some ideas on what they could touch on, etc.

Here is a website I've seen linked on gradcafe a few times that could come in handy, it has a section on LORs: https://sites.google.com/site/gradappadvice/letters-of-recommendation

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  • 2 weeks later...

@iLackImaginationThank you again for you reply.

I need three letters, so I went ahead and contacted three professors at first.

One had an automated response that they’re away for the summer, so I will follow up in August. A second one responded a day later saying they were very happy to write me a letter and also wants to set up a meeting to talk and help me revise my SOP, which I hadn’t even asked for, so I’m very grateful!

The third hasn’t responded, and it has been 6 days now. I know professors are very busy or might even be away since it’s summer, so I don’t want to bother them. I did contact a fourth professor though, since I’m not sure if the third will write me a recommendation and I realized only later that a recommendation from this fourth person might actually be better and more relevant (and I would prefer a letter from them than the third person actually). I’m still waiting for a response though.

In this case, do you guys think I should wait until late August (after the fall semester has started) to follow up with the fourth professor again? Or is one week (early August) sufficient in this case? Otherwise, should I just wait until all applications are up and online? (One school’s application won’t be available until October.)

Thanks!

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On 7/29/2021 at 2:36 AM, nanakimmy9 said:

@iLackImaginationThank you again for you reply.

I need three letters, so I went ahead and contacted three professors at first.

One had an automated response that they’re away for the summer, so I will follow up in August. A second one responded a day later saying they were very happy to write me a letter and also wants to set up a meeting to talk and help me revise my SOP, which I hadn’t even asked for, so I’m very grateful!

The third hasn’t responded, and it has been 6 days now. I know professors are very busy or might even be away since it’s summer, so I don’t want to bother them. I did contact a fourth professor though, since I’m not sure if the third will write me a recommendation and I realized only later that a recommendation from this fourth person might actually be better and more relevant (and I would prefer a letter from them than the third person actually). I’m still waiting for a response though.

In this case, do you guys think I should wait until late August (after the fall semester has started) to follow up with the fourth professor again? Or is one week (early August) sufficient in this case? Otherwise, should I just wait until all applications are up and online? (One school’s application won’t be available until October.)

Thanks!

If I may, I would wait until early- to mid-August. Have you written your request in a way that is less pressure for them to write? Good luck by the way!

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@andylee0427Thank you for the suggestion!

Then I think I will follow up in mid-August, since the second professor (the one with the automatic reply) will also be back around then. I think I didn’t put any pressure in my email, or at least I hope I didn’t! Haha. I’m applying to only two schools. I provided all the info and materials they might need and let them know that the applications won’t be due until December. I also just asked if they could let me know if they would be able to write a strong letter of recommendation. I think I was very polite in my request.

I’m hoping that they either just haven’t seen my email or have put it off for later. If they don’t want to write a recommendation for any reason, I would totally understand but would appreciate getting a response at least so that I can make other arrangements.

Reading some of other posts in this part of the forum, I realize that a lot of people suffer from LOR-related anxiety. I really wish it weren’t a requirement. 😅 Usually, if I see a job posting or internship that requires an LOR, I just don’t bother to apply. But I guess that’s not a option for grad admissions. I can only wish!

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  • 3 months later...
On 7/31/2021 at 7:00 AM, nanakimmy9 said:

@andylee0427Thank you for the suggestion!

Then I think I will follow up in mid-August, since the second professor (the one with the automatic reply) will also be back around then. I think I didn’t put any pressure in my email, or at least I hope I didn’t! Haha. I’m applying to only two schools. I provided all the info and materials they might need and let them know that the applications won’t be due until December. I also just asked if they could let me know if they would be able to write a strong letter of recommendation. I think I was very polite in my request.

I’m hoping that they either just haven’t seen my email or have put it off for later. If they don’t want to write a recommendation for any reason, I would totally understand but would appreciate getting a response at least so that I can make other arrangements.

Reading some of other posts in this part of the forum, I realize that a lot of people suffer from LOR-related anxiety. I really wish it weren’t a requirement. 😅 Usually, if I see a job posting or internship that requires an LOR, I just don’t bother to apply. But I guess that’s not a option for grad admissions. I can only wish!

"Usually, if I see a job posting or internship that requires an LOR, I just don’t bother to apply. But I guess that’s not a option for grad admissions

This made me laugh, so thank you. I have such extreme LOR anxiety that I've totally been pushing off my applications entirely. And I really want to apply this year, I've been pushing it off for a few years now after having gotten rejected from all the schools I applied to several years ago. I hate hate asking for LOR- tbh, all the professor-emailing that applicants have to do (for LOR or asking about lab availability) is a real deterrent (for me) to continue my applications, but nonetheless I will try. I do think this field is where I'm meant to be..... anywayyyy I went on a tangent. Hope all went well with your applications!!

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  • 2 weeks later...

@nanakimmy9 Oh wow, good for you! I decided it wasn't right for me this cycle as well. Decided to go for the MS, so I'll still need those recs ha. These decisions are big ones and take guts, so I'm glad you're doing what works for you! and Good luck to you in advance of the next application season!

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