I am an undergraduate studying engineering in the USA.

I took classes with a professor, 3 undergraduate, and got A in all of them. I applied for graduate studies last Summer for September admission and used him as a reference for 3 schools and was admitted to one of them. Unfortunately, the one I was admitted to lost the funding for my attendance due to the pandemic and I could not attend.

I would like to apply again this year as the pandemic situation has stabilized. I applied to a program, which I did not complete the application for and they sent reference requests anyways due to computer error and he denied it. I did not get a chance to email him about it beforehand.

Do you have any advice on how to ask, explain, write an email or how to handle this situation? Should I ask another professor? I did not take 3 courses with any other professor however.

I did take 3 courses with him so he is very familiar with my work. But I do not not want to seem unprofessional here.

2 Answers 2


Ask him again. Remember that writing the first reference letter is complicated and time consuming. Writing the second is much easier and takes minimal time.

Thus, unless the person needs to start all over again because your circumstances have changed a lot, it generates less work overall to ask him again than to ask someone to do an entirely new one.

  • Sorry, I added some more information that I did not before. My apologies for bad cut and paste.
    – user4434
    Commented Jun 29, 2022 at 22:20
  • 1
    @user4434 my comment stands. Ask him again. Commented Jun 29, 2022 at 22:48
  • 2
    Yes, ask him again.
    – Buffy
    Commented Jun 29, 2022 at 22:52
  • Shouldn't I apologize first ? I mean he declined the last request.
    – user4434
    Commented Jun 29, 2022 at 23:00
  • 1
    You should clarify the situation yes. He may not agree but still he’s the person you should ask first. Commented Jun 29, 2022 at 23:02

You should ask him again. There is nothing but upside here:

  • if he agrees, then that's great
  • if he doesn't agree, then no matter, things will continue largely as they are now.

Do you have any advice on how to ask, explain, write an email or how to handle this situation?

Concisely and clearly. No need to grovel. Just tell him the three things: (1) you are aware that he received a recommendation request for you "out of the blue", but this was a technical error, you had not intended for this request to be sent without explanation, (2) but indeed, your funding fell through and so you need to reapply to graduate school, and so (3) you are writing to ask if he would be willing to provide you a letter of recommendation once again.

I recommend doing this in one e-mail; this will simplify things. Actually, if you can do this in person, that's even better....but you don't want to get into a strange situation where you're trying to schedule an appointment without disclosing why, even though you both know why...so, if there's no natural way to do this, you're probably better off with e-mail.

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