I had worked under a supervisor in 2015 and that year I asked a recommendation letter from him for a Ph.D. He wrote it very well. On 2016, I again asked him for one and he sent me again. Both of the times my application was unsuccessful. This year I had applied for a very prestigious scholarship again and I have been shortlisted. While applying they asked for the name of the referee and they said they will send a request to submit a reference letter to the referee if the applicant is shortlisted. So the scholarship committee already sent the professor a request mail. I did not expect that I will be shortlisted so I did not inform my referees earlier. Now I am confused how to write him an email and ask him if he can write one for me again? The professor is really good and helpful. We did not have any contact these years which made me feel awkward to write him.

2 Answers 2


Shouldn't be a big deal. He will likely just send the same one he has on file. Send him an email and politely ask for the help like the below.

Dear Professor Y,

Thanks for your kind letters twice before. I am now a second year Ph.D. student at Fantasy University, working on a thesis in widget design. It is going well--my training from you and the rest of the ESU staff is being put to use.

I have another request, this time for the SooperDuper Fellowship, which will support me financially at FU. Actually I have already been shortlisted, so chances are good.

Could you please send copy of your earlier letter to support me with SooperDuper? Submission details:

  1. how/where to send
  2. due date

Once again, thanks for your kind help. Would love to stay in contact.




If, as you state, they are sending the request, then you need do nothing - the professor will receive a polite request for a reference from your possible future employer and the professor will reply to it - positively from what you have written. You don't need to get involved.

Point raised by a comment below: The system of the employer/institution sending out requests themselves directly to the referees is to help reduce or avoid "collusion" between the candidate and the reference provider. Of course, whether this has ever happened is a different question....

When some employers/institutions ask for 3 or sometimes more referees which they state they will contact, then they have the choice of which ones they will use.

  • 1
    I am concerned because I did not take permission before writing his name( this time). Earlier (2 years ago) I asked him if I can use his name as a reference and he agreed. Would not it be nice if I write him again and also can attach the previous reference letter so that he can update the date and send it directly to the scholarship committee? Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 8:39
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    Disagree. I would send a note. Just getting pinged by the Fellowship does not compel a response and is very impersonal. If I am giving a reference (written or verbal, academic or work world), I expect the person to ask me to do so (and hopefully give me a little context so I can best support them).
    – guest
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 8:41
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    You need to let them know it is coming. This is different from being in the discussion. Same thing applies for job references.
    – guest
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 8:55
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    That would fit under "details". But my criticism remains. Expecting a refernce to reply to an out of the blue request from someone you had limited contact with at the time (and 2 year intergnum) is crazy. I would definitely blow off such an outreach, figuring the student didn't even do me the courtesy to let me know it was coming! Heck I don't even want to share professional details unless a request was made by the subject (privacy reasons).
    – guest
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 9:03
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    Me too. If the student asks, personally. Not just getting pinged by some agency.
    – guest
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 9:10

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