I am not familiar with the Structure of questions in this community, so please bear with me;

I am a Life sciences Graduate from 2015. After a career in Corporate, Currently I am Preparing to Apply for PhD in Universities abroad. As part of it, I am required to provide a certain number of references (Usually 2 or 3)

Is it Appropriate to approach my old college Professors for reference after a gap of 4 years ? What things should i Take into account if i am contacting them ?


I would definetly approach your old colleagues. Explain that you need an Entry point after your corporate phase and reason why you didn’t do a doctorate earlier / why you want to switch careers.

If you left on good terms and show them the necessity of it, I’m pretty sure they will do you the favor. At least they would here in Germany.

Consider that references of old colleagues still look better than no references. I think you should also briefly explain your return to academics in the cover letter.

If you can’t get your ex-Professor etc. to review for you, you still won’t make a fool out of you or have other negative side effects. In that case I would also look for other academics in your environment who you might briefly have worked with to ask for support.


I would absolutely ask my college Professors for a reference letter - keep in mind that most academics are extremely reluctant to provide a negative recommendation, and would rather refuse altogether or provide a positive one (at least in Europe). So, the worst-case scenario is that they will refuse, and not a soul will be the wiser. I therefore see no harm in asking, but instead remember that "if you don't ask, you don't get"!

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