In one of the research internship programs I am applying for in Japan, the institution requires me to directly upload recommendation and, otherwise the application will not be reviewed. However, I think this is not quite appropriate since generally applicants should not know the contents of the recommendation. I contacted the admission administrators to discuss other options but they said it was that institution's policy.

Now I am wondering if I could ask for the professor's recommendation. Even though I think he will understand the situation and there are examples that the professor voluntarily send students a copy of recommendation (i.e. the students receive the letter passively), I feel actively asking for the copy truly unprofessional and may make myself look bad in professor's eyes. This matters since he will provide recommendations to other institutions, where they follow the convention and accept recommendation through direct email with the professor.

Do anyone else have similar experiences and how do you do with that? Thank you in advance.

  • Is there a way for the recommenders to directly upload to your application themselves, rather than have you do it?
    – Buffy
    Oct 21, 2019 at 20:15
  • Unfortunately no.
    – Mr.Robot
    Oct 21, 2019 at 20:42
  • 1
    Then just do it, as the answers suggest. I actually believe that students should be able to see letters of recommendation. It can sometimes dispel misconceptions that might arise. I once had a serious career issue because of phrasing by a non native speaker that was misinterpreted to my detriment. Had I seen it I, or some other professor, the phrasing could have been changed. The intended meaning was very positive. The actual expression used was not.
    – Buffy
    Oct 21, 2019 at 20:46
  • @Buffy Thank you for sharing. It is nice to know the complexity this issue.
    – Mr.Robot
    Oct 21, 2019 at 20:51

3 Answers 3


In spite of what you feel, follow their instructions.

I wrote a reference recently and sent it to the student... If the university wants to check, perhaps it looks tampered with, then they can contact the Academics dept or the faculty who wrote it. I have had phone calls in the past about what I wrote...

  • Thank you. It is nice to hear about this from a professor. Now I feel better.
    – Mr.Robot
    Oct 21, 2019 at 20:43

Instead of asking the professor to give you the letter, tell him about your predicament. Mention that you checked with the internship program and were refused any alternative, and ask for advice. Be clear that you completely understand if the professor is not comfortable sharing the letter with you, and consequently would be unable to help you with this particular application.

If the professor is fine with you seeing the letter, he may offer it anyway. Even if he is not, it should not look bad on you, since you were left with no choice and were just trying to work around the program's requirement.

  • I will contact the professor in this way. Thank you.
    – Mr.Robot
    Oct 21, 2019 at 20:44

This obviously depends on how the form is processed, etc., but perhaps you could offer to fill out the form fully, bring your laptop to the professor, and have him copy-paste his letter into the form and hit submit in your behalf?

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