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I am applying for graduate schools these days. One of my recommenders had submitted all but three letters before the deadline. I emailed him last week about the three letters. He then submitted one letter on Friday. However, there are still two left. The deadline for both schools is within a week. As far as I know, he often checks his email at weekend. I am afraid he might not be able to submit the letters on time because of Christmas.

I don't know other ways to contact him and the school is on holiday now. What should I do? Is it appropriate to ask other staff to help me contact him?

Thanks in advance.

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  • I you recently emailed him about the issue, why do you think he isn't aware of the deadlines?
    – Buffy
    Dec 18, 2022 at 20:18
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    @Buffy Actually, the official deadline is already passed. I contacted the schools to ask for a delay. Dec 18, 2022 at 20:21

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TL;DR Learning to manage your own feelings of worry and anxiety is likely to be a more useful focus than the question "Do I, or don't I, hassle my recommender once again?"

Your own sense of uncertainty about what to do simply reflects the fact there there is no sure-fire answer to your question. I'm sure you've worked through some of the almost infinite possibilities in your own mind, but let's try and spell out just a couple of them, ... and use "Prof R." to refer to your recommender:

  • Despite your own reminders to Prof R., the remaining reminder emails have simply slipped their mind. Prof R is having too much Christmas fun. If you contact Prof. R again, they (might) find enough time amid the fun to do as you asked (success) ... or not (failure, but nothing lost from trying).

  • As for point 1, except that instead of having fun, Prof. R is overwhelmed by pre-Christmas demands from you and everyone else. Your further reminder to Prof. R. annoys them. To get away from the annoyance of you hassling them, Prof R. writes the letter of recommendation (success based on principle of "the squeaky wheel gets the grease") ... or decides that, despite their previous intentions, they are now going to avoid you and to focus on something other than you and your request (failure!)

What is clear is that (i) there is no reasonable way of predicting the response of Prof R., and (ii) there is no sure-fire way of getting what you want. A suggestion from someone on Stack Exchange to do one thing versus another will be made in the face of even less information than you have about the individual person, Prof R.

That said, however, there is a fair amount of evidence in the psychological literature, that doing something is more likely to reduce your own anxiety (at least temporarily) than doing nothing. Doing something is also more likely to reduce the possibility of your own later feelings of regret. If those things are important to you, then do whatever is necessary to get another reminder to Prof R. ... and then live with the outcome which will be well and truly settled by the New Year.

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