I am applying for Ph.D. in US universities. I already applied in some places and suggested my recommenders name as well. Now one of my recommender (who previously wrote a recommendation letter for me) is unreachable. I mean I wrote her earlier and she gave me permission. Also, I had a copy of her letter which she sent me earlier. I wrote her emails but she did not respond. Now my question is can I ask the universities (where I applied) if they will accept the letter from me as my recommender is unavailable at the moment? If I have to ask, whom should I ask? The graduate program coordinator or the graduate office? Will it make a negative impact on my candidacy? (All my application papers, other two LORs have been submitted, only this one is left) Also, it is quite impossible to manage another recommender as the university is closed and the deadlines are nearer.

  • Can you ask her department head (or secretary) why she might not be responding and, perhaps, intervene?
    – Buffy
    Feb 10, 2021 at 13:55
  • She is the department head. And as the university is closed due to covid, so it's quite impossible. Feb 10, 2021 at 14:02
  • Did she give you a general permission to list her or did you get approval for the specific application before? This isn't clear to me here - it might turn out badly when she is contacted and doesn't agree to having her letter included in this particular application.
    – Mark
    Feb 10, 2021 at 14:17
  • Yes, she gave me permission for the specific school as well. Feb 10, 2021 at 16:31
  • The department must have a secretary, right? Get in contact with them. They may be able to reach your recommender for you. It may even be acceptable to the school for the secretary to submit the letter on behalf of her boss. (This is not uncommon.)
    – TimRias
    Feb 11, 2021 at 0:58

1 Answer 1


I would do a couple of things.

First, see if you can quickly organize a different recommender. Maybe futile, but it might work. Long term it might be useful to have a backup in any case.

Second, but simultaneously, inform the university to which you are applying that you can't reach the recommender and that Covid may be the reason. Tell them you have a copy of another letter from this person and ask for their advice on how to proceed. Give the name and email of your recommender, I think.

I suspect that people will be reasonable, given the general disruption. It shouldn't reflect badly on you if you do due diligence in getting recommendations. They may even be a bit "soft" about deadlines for such things. Note that admissions to doctoral programs is normally handled by people, not machines, and the people are all facing various kinds of disruption.

Finally, note that you not getting feedback from the recommender doesn't necessarily mean that they aren't otherwise doing their part. There may be a lot of reasons for not replying, many of them valid.

  • @Buffy- I have managed a different recommender (who is a kind of collaborator or you can say indirect supervisor and we published a paper together). Now my concern is none of my recommenders are academic (I mean where I did my bachelor, but my previous recommender was). Feb 11, 2021 at 11:22
  • @Buffy-And I have a copy of her LOR which she sent me a few months back. As I already have her permission to use her name and also she gave me the LOR by herself so I was thinking what if I send it to the graduate office too by myself and explain to them that she's unavailable at this moment but I have her permission. Do you think this is a good idea? or I should drop the idea? Feb 11, 2021 at 11:22
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    Do the second thing also. Ask for advice and add, as well that you have another recommender.
    – Buffy
    Feb 11, 2021 at 11:24
  • @Buffy-The graduate office accepted the letter that I sent to them. No need to add the new recommender. Thanks a lot for your kind help. Feb 11, 2021 at 15:41

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