I'm applying for Ph.D. programs so I requested a recommendation letter from one of my supervisors in my master's program. She directly sent me a strong recommendation letter in the email but said she has no time to upload it online.

The thing is her daughter just had a premi baby and she needs to take care of them. I worked closely with her and she is well-known in my field. Her recommendation letter will be really helpful. What should I tell the schools I'm applying for? How should I explain my situation?

  • 3
    Does your supervisor have an administrative assistant? (or does the group have one?) Most programs are fine with assistants uploading letters on behalf of the letter writer.
    – TimRias
    Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 20:41
  • 1
    @mmeent I agree. The standard procedure in my experience for cases like this is for the prof to email the letter to the department staff and let them send it confidentially. Confidential letters will have more weight in most cases, so I'd recommend doing whatever it takes to make sure you don't send the letter yourself. Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 5:42

1 Answer 1


Tell the school(s) exactly that (leaving out the baby and so on) and ask for advice. They may make some exception (or not). Maybe permitting you to submit. Maybe being lenient on deadlines. Maybe contacting the professor themselves (if you provide her email.)

You could also ask her to send the original email directly to them, rather than dealing with the online system.

Apologize for the inconvenience, even though it wasn't you that caused it. Just a polite ritual.

Dear x

I apologize for the inconvenience, but my professor sent me the enclosed recommendation but was unable to find time to upload it due to a family emergency. She can be contacted at [email protected] for verification if needed.

If this is not acceptable, please advise me on ...

Sincerely X Z

  • 2
    "They may make some exception (or not)." - Some administrative organizations are more reasonable than others. I know of one instance where the explanation for late delivery at the end of a project was "sadly, the lead investigator died in a road accident one week before the end-of-project deadline, and we need more time to sort out the contents of his personal filing system and submit the final reports" - which was rejected as insufficient reason not to impose financial penalties for late completion!
    – alephzero
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 2:10
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    @alephzero I'd rather attend grad school at one of the reasonable organizations.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 2:53
  • Thank you for your answer. I will reach out to the schools.
    – Xuan Zhang
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 16:05

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