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I have been away from full time study for more than a year now and I was trying to see if I could get into postgraduate studies at a masters level for a non-vocational subject.

Prior to graduating, I had some reference letters written and sealed hermetically by two teaching staff as I had some intention in studying in Japan. In the end, that did not bear any fruit and although it is not easy to get admitted to full-time studies after a blank period, I am hoping to make a few applications even if it is quite a long shot.

My questions are these:

-Would it be appropriate to use these reference letters if I want to make an application for postgraduate studies in a different country? My undergraduate studies was in the UK and I am hoping to make applications there.

-Would it be appropriate to send reference letters which is more than a year old for an application for postgraduate studies?

Admittedly, I can make a request to see if they can write a new reference letter but I would rather not, as I feel it would be too demanding if I ask them to write a reference letter for someone that had already graduated.

Thank you for sharing your insights, opinions and thoughts on this.

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Would it be appropriate to use these reference letters if I want to make an application for postgraduate studies in a different country? My undergraduate studies was in the UK and I am hoping to make applications there.

It depends on what type of Master's degree you are applying for. If your referees wrote their original letters under the impression that you were applying for a taught course but you are now applying to research Master's (or vice versa) the letters will probably not be suitable.

Would it be appropriate to send reference letters which is more than a year old for an application for postgraduate studies?

It's best if your references are up to date. I see no reason why someone would refuse to write you a new reference letter and there is certainly no harm in asking. Explain the details of the course you are applying to, and if necessary, remind them of things they may want to mention in the letter (e.g. you got the highest mark in their course that year, or you conpleted a successful summer project under them). However, one year after the fact, I expect they will remember you.

In summary, ask for new references, make your applications and stop worrying. Plenty of people take time off between undergrad and higher degrees (often tens of years, not just one) and your chances of success are higher than you think.

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  • In complete agreement. Would just like to add: Include an informal transcript when emailing your new reference request. Also, if you want to save the recommender a small amount of work, then after you receive a "yes" by email, respond quickly with the information that you still have the old, sealed, unused recommendation letter and ask if you should use that one. However, if I were the recommender I would say no, it's no big deal to update the date on the old one and print it out again. Also, the stale date on the old one might not look very good. – aparente001 Mar 3 '18 at 12:51

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