Should one give gifts to those who one's close to, or those who one generally doesn't interact with very much?

If the professors who wrote my LORs seem reluctant to meet me again for some reason (not sure why - maybe they're just busy), should I simply forget about it?

Also, do people usually give gifts to their advisers for PhD programs, or not really?

  • 5
    You can get gifts for writing letters ? Why did I not think of this :) ?
    – Suresh
    Jul 14, 2012 at 23:26

2 Answers 2


Here's how I would feel about various expressions of thanks, for something like writing a letter of recommendation:

  1. No response at all: I might be a little disappointed but if I am busy I might not even notice. Some people might be more offended.

  2. Email saying thank you: Feels perfectly sufficient to me.

  3. Handwritten note: A very thoughtful gesture.

  4. Token gift (small box of candy, desk trinket, etc): Appreciative but slightly embarrassed.

  5. Gift of non-negligible monetary value: Quite embarrassed. I would probably gracefully try to decline it.

  6. Gift of money, in any amount: Very uncomfortable. Feels like a bribe. I'd refuse.

Of course this could vary by culture (I'm in the US).

Regarding gifts for an advisor: A common tradition is to give your advisor a nicely bound copy of your dissertation, for their reference and as a memento. (Also be sure to thank them in the dissertation!) You could accompany it with a nice personal note. But again, I wouldn't suggest anything of significant value.

  • 4
    I completely agree with Nate. Any of #2-4 is good. In grad school, I think a department secretary helped coordinate sending all the letters of rec that I requested (she got an electronic copy from each letter writer, then sent out the hard copies that I requested). If you have someone similar to help you, I would definitely at least say thank you. In that case, I think a token gift would be appropriate.
    – Dan C
    Jul 14, 2012 at 7:29
  • 2
    This is pretty much dead on. Going with any of the options from email through token gift would be fine, and likely won't get either the gift giver or the recommender in trouble.
    – aeismail
    Jul 14, 2012 at 7:59
  • Thanks! What kind of paper would you suggest for handwritten notes? Are greeting card bought from stores more than handwritten notes?
    – Tim
    Dec 30, 2013 at 16:10

This may vary from country to country, but I think a simple "thank you" is sufficient. Writing letters is part of their job.

I'm actually forbidden from accepting gifts from students, on the grounds that an outside observer might interpret the gift as undue influence. But then, I work for a state whose last two governors are in prison for various flavors of corruption.

  • AHAH! Jeff that's so funny, but sadly true :). I have lived in Chicago 2 years and I know what you mean ;) Nov 29, 2012 at 19:02

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