I am currently applying for couple of PhD programs in the US at top Ivy league schools. I was originally supposed to receive letter of recommendation from well known professor in my field. The professor, however got ill in late October, his letter was not submitted at any institution. Deadline is at 1st December and I do not think he will be able to make it anymore.

I can get a substitute letter of recommendation from an internship supervisor at an institution that is locally well known in my country but is not well known world wide. I think this seriously weakens my application.

I wonder whether I should still apply this year to just try my luck, or wait a year to see if the said professor gets better or secure other letter of recommendation by doing more RA during the summer.

On one hand I already collected all the documents so applying now is in essence cost-less and I do not want to waste year of my life. On the other hand I worry if universities especially Ivy league ones that get extremely large number of applicants treat reapplication with a prejudice given the person was already once rejected. I am specifically asking about the situation at the US Ivy league universities. I do not know if it matters but the field is economics.

1 Answer 1


With regards to reapplying, I can’t see an admissions committee thinking you’re a less desirable candidate cause you’ve applied before, as long as you used the time not in academia to improve yourself as an economist/candidate. It might even show that you are passionate about attending that school and make you a stronger candidate. Just make sure that you demonstrate that your interest in that specific department go beyond the fact that it’s an Ivy League. However, I’ve never been on an admissions committee so this may be better left for comments from someone with that experience.

As far as applying for jobs/internships and PhD programs, cast a wide net and make the best of each opportunity. Apply for both positions and make your decision when you get all your responses. You can add other schools to your list too that aren’t ivy leagues if getting a PhD is your main goal. There are plenty of fantastic economics programs at non-ivy league schools. I wouldn’t get bogged down in the status quo of the school, such as being an Ivy League, and focus on finding programs that fit your research interests and offer courses you’d enjoy taking. It’s good to have high aspirations but to prolong the journey just so you can go to a university whose name has a “wow factor” is not always worth it.

I wouldn’t worry about how this letter of recommendation will affect you, just apply and see what happens. Once you get the responses, you can figure out what your plan is and develop a course of action to improve yourself and if needed, get some work experience and make new connections with people who can write strong letters.

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    It is also true that, since there are far toooo many very qualified applicants for the number of positions, some/many people are rejected for no reason that they can do anything about. So, up to a point, rolling the dice again gives you another chance. "Can't win if you don't play..." Nov 25, 2022 at 1:46
  • @paulgarrett yes, I completely agree.
    – anon
    Nov 25, 2022 at 14:59

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