I have two profs that would make great references for me since I worked closely with them on some research. I emailed them 2 weeks ago (which was nearly 6 weeks before the application deadline). I heard back from one of them immediately but still haven’t heard back from the other. To be fair, it was the day before the holidays. I sent him a follow up a couple of hours ago. This is a professor who has always responded back to me within a few minutes. Still haven’t heard back. The application is due in less than a month and I’m really panicking I’m running out of time! If I need to find someone else, I don’t want to give them short notice. So should I contact someone else today?

Another question, I’m not really sure if this other person would be an appropriate reference. I worked with her on a research project (the same project I worked with the other professors on). She’s not a professor (which is fine) but I didn’t work all that closely with her on the project. I helped her out with a few specific tasks, but the other references would definitely be better able to evaluate me. I know you can’t tell me if she would give me a good reference, but does anyone else have a similar experience with getting a reference from someone you only worked with briefly on a project?

If I do ask her, what should I say in the email on such short notice (and since we aren’t that close)?

3 Answers 3


Contact the second person anyways, but continue to try and get the slow-responder to get the recommendation to you. This might mean extra work for you, but having backup options tends to be a safer bet. Good luck!


I assumed you need only 1 reference letter, in this case a good action plan in my opinion would be:

  • Contact again the missing professor in a more pushy way (e.g. by phone or in person) if possible and show to them the importance of this letter to him. There could be a number of reasons for his delay and in my experience, he may have forgotten or failed to give due importance to that. Thus, it is always better to make things clear and fight for your goals. Do not mind to bother him as it have a critical importance for you.
  • Contact other professors and create a possible list of references. Send some emails asking if they would be comfortable on writing reference letters for you. State clearly your goals and deadlines (if possible, give a tight deadline for them) and show how important it is to you.

You can take a proper decision based on their answers. Remember that one not so strong reference is better than none.

Good luck and keep pursuing your goals.

  • No, do not follow the first suggestion. Jan 8, 2018 at 14:28
  • Could you clarify why you believe that ? @AndrésE.Caicedo
    – VictorBR
    Jan 8, 2018 at 15:32
  • I didn't mean in any way for him to be unpolite, just to let the professor know the importance of this task. I had some experiences with professors that simply forgot that I've contacted them before or didn't put my request deadline as their priorities. When I contacted them politely by phone and told them the request was very important to me, they answered promptly and without bothering with it. But I think it has a bit of a cultural aspect too.
    – VictorBR
    Jan 8, 2018 at 15:42
  • Your approach may be perceived as rude. Send the professor an email, indicating the deadline and that you have not heard from them yet (and yes, have a back-up reference writer in any case). As you indicate, you do not think your suggestion is impolite. And in some cases, it may not be felt as such. But if all communications on the matter have been by email, the phone call or visit in person call may feel intrusive. Plus, there will not be any written record of it, which is probably what the professor will need instead to keep track of it. Jan 8, 2018 at 15:57

If you are bounded by deadlines or in the hurry of getting the letters please do contact someone else. If its okay for you to spend some more time and wait for the letters then I think that's what you should do. Getting letter from people who know your expertise and your work flow is really important. Also it does make impact in future. cheers!

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