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I'm applying for a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology, so I asked the 3 ethno profs at my university for recommendations about a month ago (one of whom is my supervisor, and all of whom have taught me in class).

Supervisor and prof 2 got everything in with time to spare.

Prof 3 (a fairly big name in our field and definitely the best-known at our university) expressed immediate willingness to write. I mentioned it a few times again in person over the last few weeks, and sent a reminder email 3 days before the first due date. No response. On the due date, I sent another reminder. I then learn that Prof 3 has just left the country, either for Europe or Africa, and nobody has any contact info other than an email address. I've sent out a few more panicked emails in the last 3 days from various accounts.

2 due dates are past, 1 is fast approaching, a few more in about a week. I still really want this recommendation, but...aargh. Now I'm trying to decide who else I can ask for emergency's sake. Or should I try storming the gates at the department to try to get a cell phone number so I can interrupt this prof on vacation?

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This last prof might have gone to a place where there's no internet, perhaps? It's hard to imagine, but may be that's the hard fact. Or, he is deliberately dodging the emails so that he can do in peace whatever he went there to do! I don't advise calling, or sending out any more emails. Most schools consider your application review-worthy if the main application, $$, GRE, transcripts reach on time. Later LoRs don't do any harm other than your application will be reviewed late (upon receipt of all materials), thus increasing all sorts of risks.

If there's no word on his return, then you can/should start knocking doors of a or two backup profs, if you have any. I know what you are going through... one of my prof was little late in submitting his LoRs (which was before the deadlines), and I thought I was burning in hell till he turned in the letters. Hang in there man.. it'll turn out well!

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I'm kind of worried about this too and am being forced to ask for backups last minute. I feel bad putting people on the spot, and am almost resigned to having incomplete applications for the schools that require three letters.

Does this happen a lot?

I really want to go back to school but am stressed out about this!

Regarding back ups, is it a hindrance to applications if the recommendation is from colleagues instead of professors?

Edited by locussolus
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I'm in a similar situation. My research adviser pretty much disappeared and hasn't returned any of my emails. My first deadline is in a week. I know there might be wiggle room for LOR submissions, but based on the (rumored) circumstances regarding his departure, I'm pretty concerned--I'm already asking for some backup letters. Fortunately, my other two letter writers have submitted their recommendations, but this is still rather stressful.

locussolus: try to get professor recommendations over colleague ones. They're much more valued.

Edited by katerific
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I heard back from my prof today (finally!). Internet access was indeed an issue. We're still on track to get things in on schedule, other than the two deadlines that have already passed, and at least one of those schools told me that a few weeks late isn't a problem. Phew!

Good luck to you, locus and Kate...it's no fun. I hope it turns out well for you both.

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For those who are panicking about late LORs. You have a ton of time and don't exactly have to have them submitted by the deadline. Schools know that Professors are late with these things, but you should try to get them in by January at least. The schools will bug you for the missing letter when it comes to that time. I didn't have all 3 letters in till mid-February.

Edited by joro
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I'm really annoyed and frustrated right now because one of my LOR writers has gone MIA too. I first asked back in Sept. had all the info and registration for all schools to him by early Oct which was the last I heard from him saying he'll get right to it. I waited till the deadline was approaching in late Nov. and sent him reminders. Never heard back. I've sent him 2 additional emails since and nary a word back. Phone calls to his office goes to voicemail every time. They've already missed 3 of the deadlines and yes I know people have been saying that this isn't a big deal. But I read on another forum that some have already been notified of interviews from Cornell. This basically tells me that I've now got no chance at this school because my application was/is still incomplete so they probably didn't even look at it. He was the PI I did my undergrad research in so it's really important that I get his letter but now I'm wondering if I should just go search for a backup from a random prof. at this late date?

I just don't get it. It seems so irresponsible to me. Now maybe life/emergencies or whatever is more important but how long does it take to write a one sentence email acknowledging that they've received my correspondence and update me with some kind of news or status? Like hey I've got it and will get to it later. And if he's decided for whatever reason that he can't/won't write a letter for me, why not just tell me so I can move on and find some way to fix it at this late date.

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Is there anyone else in the Department who can "intercede" for you, just to find out if he/she is still planning on doing the references? Does the Department have an administrator? This is who I contacted when I recently ran into a problem (which still isn't resolved, however!). Or is there another professor you know who might be able to speak with the person? The fact that this is winter break is a BIG headache.

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I take a little bit of comfort knowing that so many people are having this problem. My guy hasn't even checked in on any of my applications. I emailed this afternoon and was planning to call tomorrow morning, but reading this maybe I'll back off a day or two.

Yeah, despite that email a week ago saying that the letters would be out within two days, my prof hasn't submitted yet. Oh well--I guess we need to take it easy, trust our recommenders, and hope for the best.

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Anything that's later than a week after the deadline and I say you should get on their asses and also call the schools you're applying to. Now maybe they give a bit more leeway than they told me, but one school point blank said that the letter cannot be later than a week at the latest, from the day I called them which was deadline day. The grad admissions officer said he understood that it was not in my control but that they would not review it if it was incomplete by the stated time. Lucky that my writer submitted it pretty soon after I told her this.

Also some schools do not wait until after the new year to review applications. Some schools are already issuing out invites at this moment. It just depends on the school.

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That should be a relief for you then. I'm just telling people who think that committees won't meet until after the holidays is not always the case, so it's good to stay on top of procrastinating letter writers. In the biosciences/life sciences I know of a few people who have received interviews and the deadline was back in early December.

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