A professor agreed on helping me with applying for a postdoctoral fellowship. However, after I wrote the application materials and send to him, he stopped replying to me. It is really just several days before the deadline now. And I started to feel frustrated. I don't know what I have possibly done wrong. Just thinking that I had already ask my professors for writing recommendations and I had devoted much time in proposing and writing the applications. I really don't want to waste them. Should I make a phone call to ask is there anything wrong? What would you suggest me to do?


  • This is summer, he might be on vacation. Since when can't you have an answer?
    – Emilie
    Jun 27, 2018 at 2:06
  • He contacted me said let's apply at the beginning of June. I sent him two emails one week ago (with all the materials) but did not get the reply.
    – wdxueren
    Jun 27, 2018 at 2:39

2 Answers 2


I've been in a very similar situation and did make a phone call, or rather a few. I think you should do the same.

The most likely scenario is that they don't have the deadline very clearly in their head and something else came up. Professors have to deal with multiple things all the time and sometimes things just get very hectic. There's probably nothing wrong, per se.

So I'd place a phone call and for example ask him "I haven't yet received your acceptance letter for the fellowship deadline that's coming up. Did something go wrong with the email, maybe?"

Don't wait too long! If he still has to write the letter, make sure he has enough time to do so.

  • I would call and leave a message and send a follow-up email “in case you are not in the office and cannot listen to my message.” In the future, you can inquire how the prof wants you to handle unresponsive emails. My prof had a rule that if I did not have a response within 3 days I needed to email her again.
    – Dawn
    Jun 27, 2018 at 12:37
  • Thank you so much!!! I was seriously considering making a phone call. But I tried to calm down. And just today, he responded and everything's back on track! Thank you so much!! I will try to prepare this kind of thing in advance.. Phew...
    – wdxueren
    Jun 28, 2018 at 8:02

1 week of silence should not send you into panic, you will have to put up with significantly longer and abrupt cuts in communication, if you choose to pursue a life in academia, I can promise you that much.

Whatever amount of time and effort you might have put into the project, it's irrelevant comparing to the number of things the potential supervisor you mention is likely juggling at the same time. Frustrating, I know, but also a fact of life in academic work environment.

I would suggest sending a reminder email, that is short, clear and courteous, essentially mentioning that the deadline is fast approaching and that you would like to get things done the best possible way. Then giving it a couple of days, I would call to check if the person has seen the email.

I would not read too much into it if all of that effort still doesn't work, you have no idea what might be going through the other person's head, what kind of issues s/he might be dealing with currently. Sometimes it boils down to serendipity.

Good luck,


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