I am beginning to realize that I may need to suddenly bombard my referees with several emails. They have both confirmed that they would be references.

Firstly, I would like to know whether the school I’m applying to has sent them the form yet that they need to fill out. They should have, but I’m not sure if they did. The application is due January 31st.

Secondly, I sent one of my referees a document of the tasks I worked on during my undergraduate research project to help with the reference. I had a meeting with him last week and he asked me to send this to him. I did yesterday morning and still haven’t heard back. He usually replies very quickly. Should I confirm he received it?

Thirdly, The internal scholarship just opened up and I just found out I need a couple of references for this (it’s only one application). This reference form is nearly identical to one of the other ones I asked them to fill out. I would like to ask them for this reference as well (it’s due at the very beginning of March).

Lastly, assuming they don’t send in their references until right up until the deadline, I will also need to eventually send them a follow up email to make sure they send them in.

I feel like a huge burden emailing them as they are extremely busy (they work with the government in addition to being a professor). How should I go about sending these emails?

  • The first three sound like they can be combined into a single email (but you don't necessarily have to - check out this question). Other than that, people generally respond well if you thank them warmly for their time and effort.
    – nengel
    Jan 19, 2018 at 6:14
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    The title should say 'continually', not 'continuously'.
    – Jessica B
    Jan 19, 2018 at 6:52
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    Firstly, thank your recommendation writers for your time, send them a table of the institutions that you are applying to and the deadlines if you have a large list of places that you are applying to. Also, note that the deadline for recommendations is usually after your deadline to submit your application. If you have submitted your application by the deadline then the program will consider you. Admissions often waits for the letters before they make the decisions. However, I was contacted by a good university with only one letter of recommendation while my other writers were being late.
    – xyz123
    Jan 19, 2018 at 8:04
  • "If I flag down a bus at a bus stop, will the driver be annoyed?" Answer: "Maybe, but it is their job to stop and deal with you." Only in academia do we worry about the fragile and irascible ego of the prof. Just imagine that somehow the bus drivers's mood could determine whether you are allowed to get onto your connecting train.
    – Deipatrous
    Mar 5, 2020 at 10:45

1 Answer 1


People who have agreed to be your referees know you will be applying to various things (or should do: you should have given them a reasonable outline of your plans). The number of different things they need to do is not so important. What matters is the total time it will take them. If they have three references to write at once, they can copy/paste it across, having got into 'writing your reference' mode just once. If you time requests such that they have to keep coming back to it, that will take much more time and effort for them.

So, do your best to group any reference requests into as few blocks as possible. That means you need to plan ahead about your applications, and ask for some well ahead of time, so they can be done along with references for places with earlier deadlines. As a bonus, this also massively reduces the 'night before the deadline' worry.

Personally I would scrub round the 'did you send it?' email. If it's after the deadline, there's not a lot you can do about it either way. If the place you are applying is very strict on the deadline (ie including references), make sure you have told your referees that. Unless you know they are particularly unreliable (in which case you probably want to take a different approach anyway), they will not mess things up for you except in an emergency. Some places will accept references slightly after the deadline, and the nicer ones would let you know that not all your references have arrived, so you can give the referees a poke. Also, if you've given them things in a neat block, there's a good chance they will let you know they've sent the references by themselves.

  • Thank you. I believe I gave them enough information about my plans and enough time (6 weeks). However, I did not know the internal scholarships existed. I have secured a supervisor at the school I’m applying to and she told me about the scholarships. She only told me about a week ago that she also wants me to apply to internal scholarships, but they aren’t due until much later. It was only this week when all of the information about this scholarship and it’s due date was released. For the references, I am asking them to fill out 3 assessment forms provided by the school. They are VERY similar
    – aspire94
    Jan 19, 2018 at 7:25

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