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I wanted to ask my teacher for a letter of recommendation, and wanted to contact her via a phone call. Upon asking her what time she would be free (I didn't mention the purpose for calling), she answered that she was sick and out of town as well. She told me that she would be free after around 10-15 days. However that is pretty late since she will also need some time to write the recommendation letter. The admissions team is going to be reviewing the materials beginning from January.

What should I do? Is it rude to bring up the matter of my recommendation letter when the teacher is sick and wait for 10-15 days or should I mail her regardless and at least inform her about it?

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  • The admission team shall what? Also, undergraduate admission is off-topic here, but I guess this post will not be closed for this reason.
    – Neuchâtel
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 5:19

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I don't think anyone else can answer that for you ... But on the other hand, I do think that there is a way for you to think about the problem more clearly, that might help.

First, there isn't really anything special here, in terms of how you deal with the other person, about that person being your teacher. They are just another human being. Ask yourself what you would do in similar circumstances if, say,

  • you needed/wanted something from someone who was your friend, and
  • your friend said they were sick.

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not implying that you shouldn't contact your teacher. I'm suggesting that you weigh up your concerns about the other person against your own needs, ... just as one has to do in so much of life.

You could then consider doing any of the following:

  • Not contact your teacher, until 10 days time ... effectively limiting the potential time in which the teacher might be able to respond to your request, but accepting that she is completely unwilling to reconsider your request in the short term.
  • Contact the teacher again with a simple repetition of your request ... which is likely to seem rude
  • Write (email) your teacher, and open with a simple statement that you understand that she is unwell, and that you are probably bothering her. But also clearly explain your own circumstances and concerns. That doesn't force the other person to do anything. Instead, having made your choice, it puts the ball in their court, and asks them to weigh up their needs against your stated needs, and leaves them to make a decision.
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Caveat: Peoples' attitudes to preferred modes of communication vary widely.

You approached this in the wrong way. Writing a letter of recommendation is a rather standard task. I would consider it to be best practise to request a letter via an email containing the most pertinent information, and including the offer to speak in person/on the phone/via Zoom if the letter writer deems this convenient. Ideally, such a request comes about 4 weeks prior to the deadline.

If someone requests a phone call without disclosing what it is about, I personally would fear something messy and complicated coming up. If there is no urgency communicated at the same time, being unwell, travelling or Christmas would all individually be sufficient reasons to postpone it.

Since the deadline for the letters does seem to be after the 10-15 day period the lecturer said they were unavailable, here is what I would do for the way forward: Respond to their email now, wishing them a "get well soon" and a good start to the new year (if they are operating on a calendar where that is relevant), informing them that the requested phone call was just about a letter of recommendation, and include the relevant information for that.

The great thing about email as a communication medium is that it is asynchronous: The lecturer can decide when they feel up to reading their emails.

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