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So I sent a thank you email to a professor who wrote me a reference letter. I updated her on the results of my applications. She replied back in a really nice email congratulating me and giving me some suggestions for my future career. I feel kind of rude ending our conversation this way, but at the same time, I also think it might be annoying for her to see another thank you email from me. If I do reply, I will most likely just say thank you again, this time for your kind words, and so on, which sound a bit repetitive. What would be an appropriate thing to do in this situation?

  • I would not email back. There is no purpose to do so. You thanked the professor and they acknowledged the thanks. – chevybow Jul 25 '18 at 20:19
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    @chevybow But the professor's response contains additional suggestions that have not been acknowledged with thanks. – Nicole Hamilton Jul 25 '18 at 20:53
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    @chevybow I think approaching the question of "should I thank someone" with the mindset of "is it strictly necessary" is not the right approach. – user9646 Jul 26 '18 at 13:44
  • @NajibIdrissi Why start an infinite loop of "Thank you professor" "You are welcome student" "Thank you again professor". – chevybow Jul 26 '18 at 14:15
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As an instructor, when I write a nice personal note to a student, it means I spent some time thinking about them and how I could help them. I appreciate when someone says thank you. Here's how to do it without inviting another round.

Thank you. I really appreciate your help and advice.

Turtle

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I would e-mail the professor back thanking her again for her kind words and telling her how you would use her career advice because it is a bit rude to get a reference letter and then cut off the conversation.

While it may be a bit repetitive, remember that you can always add how well the suggestions that she gave you worked out. Also, a thank-you letter does not always have to be long.

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Your analysis seems correct. If she didn't ask you any questions or imply the desire for more information, I think you can and should leave it at that, for now. Once a "sufficient" back and forth chain of thank you notes has occurred there is no reason to extend it.

However, if the need arises in future to communicate with her you can open with thanks for past help and encouragement. You could also, then, let her know of any success generated by yer suggestions.

As you note, some emails are just noise. Some are nice, but not essential. Some are essential. This sounds like it would be just noise and she is likely busy encouraging the next person.

However, if you do take her suggestions and things work out well for you as a consequence, you can then write with the appropriate thanks and update.

I seldom reply to emails such as the one you describe unless I have something to say that will benefit the receiver in some way. There are exceptions, of course.

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    I can't remember ever getting a thank you from a student and thinking it was just noise. – Nicole Hamilton Jul 26 '18 at 10:54
  • My reading of it was just that a back and forth chain of thank-you notes had already occurred and needn't be extended. Nothing more than that. Otherwise, I agree with your answer, actually. – Buffy Jul 26 '18 at 10:58
  • @NicoleHamilton see the above comment and my edit for clarification. Sorry for the confusion. – Buffy Jul 26 '18 at 11:07

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