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I asked two potential referees, 1 month before application deadline, to write me a letter and both gladly accepted, and one asked me to write a draft (which I learned was a common practice).

It has been 10 days and I have never heard from them after I responded thanking them for accepting my request (and supplying the draft to the one who asked).

What is the best time to follow up with them without appearing pushy?

Also, one of my referees had an academic email address, which means the application system sent him an automatic electronic reference form by email, and I have no idea whether it was completed or not. Should I still follow up with him?

  • Is one of your referees writing a paper letter and the other submitting electronically? – Kevin Miller Mar 12 '19 at 7:17
  • Yes, that is correct. – WantsToLearn Mar 12 '19 at 7:18
  • some systems will show you, whether electronic recc was submitted or not, double check your system – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Apr 11 '19 at 21:39
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I'd wait until about 5-7 days before the due date, and then send a polite email reminding them that the letters are due, and offering to have the links to the forms resent if they need it.

There is a balance between being "pushy", and sending them a reminder too late for them to avoid feeling time pressure if they haven't written it. I try to stay on top of things, but if I forget, I would prefer to receive notification more than a day or two before the due date.

Of course, if there's a situation such as "rolling admissions", where an on-time submission can still be a bad thing, I'd ping them earlier --- but a situation such as that should never come up, as you would have let them know that an early letter was really necessary at the time you made the original requests.

It might be a good habit, when sending them the "thank you for agreeing to write me a letter" message, to say something like "unless you ask me not too, I'll send out a reminder about a week before the due date".

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Given that you have approximately 20 days before the deadline, I would wait a while to do a follow up. The “proper” amount of time is very subjective, but I’d personally wait about a week until the deadline. While you have prepared well in advance for your application, you need to keep in mind that your letter writers are busy people who are going out of their way to do you a favor and will do so on their own time.

Your referees will likely let you know when their letters are submitted, but it would be good to initiate confirmation when the due date gets closer. Generally, the institution that receives your letters electronically will send you an automated email once your referee has submitted their letter.

There is usually a feature for electronic letters that allows you to send a push reminder email from the institution (just as the original letter request is), which is a good way to follow up without appearing too nagging. In the event that you decide to do a personal follow up, I would phrase your emails around the words: “if there is any other information you need to complete my letter, please let me know,” and remind them of the due date.

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