I had sent a reminder to the professor for submitting my letter of recommendation about two days before the deadline, but he didn't reply to me. He was highly unresponsive after initially agreeing. As the deadline was approaching, I removed him from the recommender list, thinking that he might be too busy to write the letter. But he submitted the letter a few hours before the deadline, and emailed me that the system didn't accept his letter.

It's so embarrassing. I am not sure how I should reply to him. It makes it look like I don't believe him but I did believe it made sense to change the recommender at that moment.

  • 1
    Is there an email he could post it to? Dec 15, 2020 at 1:05
  • 10
    Just tell him the truth: you got worried he might have forgotten your letter, contacted someone else to replace him, and now feel terrible not having let this professor know. Apologize, and move on. You can’t change what happened, so I wouldn’t agonize over it either. Dec 15, 2020 at 2:18
  • Did someone else submit a recommendation in his place?
    – Buffy
    Nov 16, 2022 at 19:58

1 Answer 1


Your perception was entirely reasonable, and as somebody who is serious, you can't let unreliable people decide your fate. So, it is very logical, and nobody should blame you because you did the best thing you could. The point is, should you even communicate the substitution to him, and if yes, what good does it do? If you couldn't find any reason for doing so, then perhaps you shouldn't. This whole recommendation letter is entirely about you and given that he didn't even bother to check or post, you can just simply ignore him. A few months later things will be back to normal and people will simply forget about it.

  • "you can't let unreliable people decide your fate" - I agree with that, but I'm not sure that simply explaining the situation has anything to do with relinquishing control of OP's fate. If I were the recommender, I would not "simply forget about it" if I wrote the letter and got no explanation why it was denied... Jul 21, 2021 at 15:15
  • @small_wayne That would be unfortunate if the recommender further inquires why the letter was denied because the conversation could be awkward. The bottom line is if the recommender accepts to write the letter and could not fulfill his or her duty responsibly, it is reasonable to replace. As I said (and maybe a bit more precisely), "you can't let irresponsible people decide your fate". Now if the recommender brings it up, it is awkward for the applicant to explain why the recommender that he/she cannot be trusted in critical moments.
    – kensaii
    Jul 22, 2021 at 16:43
  • @small_wayne If the recommender is smart, then he or she should not ask the question. It works the same way for the applicant as well as for the school admission committee: both sides always have some extra resources. If the position requires 3 recommendation letters, the applicant would typically contact 4 or 5 just in case one back out at the last minute. It's a reasonable decision and happens in this case. The simple and elegant solution is to move on, unless one wants to hear the ugly truth.
    – kensaii
    Jul 22, 2021 at 16:46

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