I asked for a recommendation letter from a professor and sent him all the required materials. He agreed to write me the letters, but he also said that he will send me the letters later next week. Is this normal? As far as I know, the content of a recommendation letter should be confidential and should not be read by the student.

What should I do at this moment? Should I tell him not to sent the letters to me but directly to the universities I'm applying to?

  • This is dependent on the country. Where do you and your professor live, and where are you applying to? Sep 21, 2022 at 13:10
  • Or does he perhaps originate somewhere else? Sep 21, 2022 at 13:10

3 Answers 3


Many professors will share what they write with students even when the expectation is that they are "confidential". I don't have a problem with it as long as the recommender is honest and independent.

I think people might fear that only positive statements will be shared, somehow indicating bias toward the positive. But if a professor feels they need to write negative things, then they really should talk to the student about it before writing/sending any letter. If the professor can't support a student they should be advised of that. It is a way to avoid misunderstandings.

The response could be "thanks", or "thanks but that isn't necessary". Your call.

I was told, years after graduation, that my professor wrote me letters of recommendation, which he didn't share, that he intended to be entirely positive, but the phrasing could be interpreted otherwise. The person who told me (a colleague of the professor) said that it probably caused me a setback. In essence the advisor said that I was probably the world's foremost expert on a topic that some would consider very minor. He meant well but there were some cultural (math culture, actually) considerations that he didn't recognize. Even if he had shared it with his colleague, rather than myself, I might have had a different career trajectory. Just a misunderstanding, but with serious consequences.


In the US at least, the issue isn't confidentiality, it's whether the student has waived their right under the law to see the letter. Most schools won't take a letter "seriously" if this isn't the case. But there is absolutely nothing preventing the letter-writer from providing you with the letter anyway, which has no effect on your waiver.

However, the program will probably require that the letter come directly from him and not from you.


He may have a pile of letters to write and hasn’t gotten to yours yet, but I would have been more forthcoming about that. He may also rank his work by due date or incoming date or something else.

  • 1
    I think you missed the point of the question.
    – Buffy
    Oct 2, 2022 at 16:06

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