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Reference Letter Adventures


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I've never been denied a reference letter. But, I've had to work very very hard to actually get the letter. My referees always say 'yes' when I ask them for a letter and then get hostile when I remind them that it is due. I've heard every excuse in the book. Here is a sample: 1. I can't get the link to work; 2. There is a glitch in the system, and; 3. I'm very busy and I apologize - when is it due again? (While this excuse may very well be the case my referee had 2.5 months to do the letter). I've been given the advice to keep on reminding them, but it's really a no-win situation because of the fact that the pressure makes them angry and I get stressed having to chase. I've considered applying for funding that requires my referees to send something straight to the funding body. But alas, if only I could count on them getting it in on time! I've passed up some opportunities because I'm beholden to the referees and have no faith in them actually producing the letter in a reasonable time. I have no choice but to use these referees and I keep hoping that something will change so I no longer need them, but things haven't panned out for me yet. Having said that, the actual letters are very good and I do appreciate the hard work that goes into it. If only they would get it in on time and without the chase! Has anyone else had this type of experience?

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Yup.  Going through this right now.  Two of the three letters were submitted (electronically) very promptly.  The third is lagging, and I'll have to send a reminder email next week.  So my options are 1) potentially annoy the letter writer and end up with a weaker letter as a result or 2) not have the letter.  Ugh!

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Whilst they might get a little annoyed, I doubt most profs would actually weaken a letter simply because you are following up on the deadline (unless of course you are  calling them on their house phone 5 times in the middle of the night to remind them!). Even if busy, I think most have the maturity to understand that your following up is only natural - unless a prof has specifically asked you not to follow up, I would not worry too much.

 

One simple method I used was to send a (very polite) reminder about 10 days or so before the deadline - specifically mentioning that I appreciate them taking time off their busy schedules, - and to let me know if they would rather not have me follow up in the future. None of my referees came back asking me not to follow up, instead a couple of them actually told me to "please follow up a couple of days in advance of each pending deadline", and that the reminders actually made it easier for them!

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Whilst they might get a little annoyed, I doubt most profs would actually weaken a letter simply because you are following up on the deadline (unless of course you are  calling them on their house phone 5 times in the middle of the night to remind them!). Even if busy, I think most have the maturity to understand that your following up is only natural - unless a prof has specifically asked you not to follow up, I would not worry too much.

 

One simple method I used was to send a (very polite) reminder about 10 days or so before the deadline - specifically mentioning that I appreciate them taking time off their busy schedules, - and to let me know if they would rather not have me follow up in the future. None of my referees came back asking me not to follow up, instead a couple of them actually told me to "please follow up a couple of days in advance of each pending deadline", and that the reminders actually made it easier for them!

 

Ditto. My late recommender asked for reminders.

 

One application required letters mailed in, though, and I had to drive to her house to pick up the letter and then rush to the post office to get it off in time.

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My first LOR completed and submitted all of my LORs at the same time, 3 weeks before the first deadline. My others, whom I see and work with everyday, submitted them as they were due, usually the day before. It gave me such anxiety and drove me crazy. I was hesitant to remind them because I didn't want to bother them or suggest that they were forgetful and/or irresponsible. I'm so glad that's over.

Edited by ion_exchanger
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I had a writer offer to write me a letter when I mentioned my interest in applying to PhD programs after my MA. The person was a prof at a school that I had not attended, but was applying to for the PhD. We had a great relationship over the past two years. I provided them with a packet of materials that included a list of programs with deadline dates. We discussed this list in person and the letter writer had no problems with this, said the number of programs was fine.

The recommender submitted every letter very efficiently and then sent me a hate email after each one, literally starting with the first program. It would range from saying they were too busy for this, to name calling, to "you owe me SO MUCH for this," to "I never want to see you again." Complete psycho stuff. I would email them back apologizing and reminding them that they were very eager to write these letters and agreed to all the programs and dates multiple times. The recommender would then apologize and recommit. But I'd get another absurd hate email after nearly each time.

It was a terrifying experience and created a great deal of stress, as I feared it would affect my applications. I sure am glad that's over with!

Why is this crazy stuff so common?!?!?!

Edited by uromastyx
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Is electronic submission more common these days? I seriously don't know how am I getting stamped envelopes from NY to my alma mater in Boston.

 

I would say yes, especially if the application is online. But there are some schools that will accepted mailed letters if for some reason your recommenders cannot upload their letters to your application.

 

My stories are as follows:

-I asked a professor if he could write me a letter, he said to meet with him in his office so I thought that was automatically a "yes." It turned out that all he wanted to do was tell me why I shouldn't go into the program, and that it was hard to get into. (A simple "no" with an explanation would have sufficed).

-A few days after submitting my application I received an email from the department saying one of my letters was missing

-For my latest application the same thing happened as above (second point)

-One of my recommenders left me hanging, and didn't reply to any of my emails or tell me that she submitted it (thankfully she did)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think regardless of how well you know the person(s) you have asked for a LOR, remember that stuff happens and people forget. I had to chase up several ppl and remind them several times that the deadline was coming and almost panicked when admissions asked me if letter were on the way. No one left me hanging but it felt like I was on that borderline at several points in the process.

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I had a professor flat out tell me that he wasn't going to send a letter to what I considered safety schools because he didn't want me there. Since it was pretty late in the process, I got to email the GA reps and ask for my applications to be withdrawn. Looking back on it, he was right. I wouldn't have enjoyed being there, and there aren't really "safety schools" for my program.

Edited by ProfessorChaos
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