I just realized I'd like to apply for graduate school. This gives me about 1.5 weeks to get everything together. I think I have most things in order, but I need to ask professors for letters of recommendation. Would it be appropriate to ask more than 3 professors for letters of recommendation and then decline to use them or use them at a throwaway application if more than 3 professors say yes?

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    Without prior warning, 1.5 weeks is a very short time to write a reference letter... Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 12:35
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    Doesn't your field have schools with due dates in mid-December or later? I realize some of your preferred programs may be due in 1.5 weeks, but we should be clear that you have chosen to make an unreasonable demand of your recommenders rather than choosing to restrict yourself to programs with later due dates.
    – cag51
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 21:58
  • It's not clear where the sudden urgency comes from, but in addition to possibly irritating letter writers, there are some reasons to think about whether you really want to apply to a grad school program in 1.5 weeks. (a) Your materials, and the letters, will all be rushed, and so not as good as they can be. (b) You only get one chance to make a first impression. (c) There's no reason you can't apply again next year with more time to prepare; many people take time off school before grad school. (d) Going to grad school is a major decision and you don't want to decide to do it under pressure.
    – Andrew
    Commented Nov 20, 2021 at 3:36

1 Answer 1


Not really, no. You are asking people (with very short notice even) to write a LoR for you, which in itself is already not ideal. Then you'll just throw out that work.

Ask yourself if you'd want to spend a few hours, either taking up your free time or deprioritizing some other task, to write a letter which is not going to be used. I think you know the answer.

  • then what do I do if too many people say yes?
    – afsum
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 18:23
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    @afsum You could ask 3 to start, thank them for considering your late request, and politely say that given the tight timeline you would appreciate if they could tell you if they can do the letter or not right away so you can ask additional letter writers. It's a bit pushy but it's better than than having someone write you a letter at the last minute and not using it. You're in a situation where you can't avoid coming across as being at least little inconsiderate, but being open and honest is always better. It's not great but it happens. You have to do what's best for you. Next time be better.
    – Andrew
    Commented Nov 20, 2021 at 3:05

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