I'm applying to Stanford, which requires 2 letters of recommendation from teachers, due in 2 days.

Both teachers have known about this since mid-September, but one of them hasn't submitted his letter. I've asked him, and he tells me that he has one prepared, but he hasn't submitted it yet.

I can't add a third letter that would qualify because of the way that the common application works.

Should I wait for the deadline to pass, hoping that he turns his letter in at the last minute?

Or should I ask someone else to write a letter in his place?

I'm mainly considering the first option, because I have no reason not to trust him, but I'm not sure what will happen if he doesn't pull through.

Turns out that they do accept letters of recommendation after the deadline, so long as the application is in on time.

  • Have you tried to drop by his office? If you are out of city do you know someone who can approach him? Also, do you know what will happen to the applications missing letter of recommendation after the deadline?
    – seteropere
    Oct 30, 2014 at 21:31
  • 3
    Gently remind him of the deadline. (I, too, have one that's due tomorrow.)
    – Bob Brown
    Oct 30, 2014 at 22:09
  • @BobBrown That's what I did. I posted here to see if anybody had good reason for me to do something else.
    – Jacklynn
    Oct 30, 2014 at 23:52

3 Answers 3


Politely and very gently remind the professor that the letter of recommendation is due. That's really all you can do. If your professors says they will submit it on time, try to believe them.

As you have found out after posting the question, to the extent that it doesn't hold up other parts of their process, people on admissions committees understand that your flakey letter writers don't mean that you are flakey and will usually do what they can to accept or consider late letters. Often, departments will remind students or letter writers that their letters are missing, at, or even after, a deadline.


Prior to the application deadline I would send an email along these lines (taken from Cindy Au on Quora):

Dear Professor [Professor's name],

The deadline for submitting letter of recommendation for [name of graduate program/ fellowship] is quickly approaching. I would like to inquire if there is still any document I can supply to make your writing easier.

I understand that this is a very hectic time in the school year and thus can't thank you enough for your time and support.

Respectfully yours,

You can also "accidentally" try to run across the teacher around his/her lab or class location, or simply drop by his/her office, but it really depends on teacher's style as some might be a bit annoyed. For most the email should be enough. Academics are used to deadlines (and last-minute submissions).

When I was applying for grad schools I applied for a fellowship whose deadline was 15 days before grad schools' deadlines, so that gave me two weeks of safety (I didn't care about the fellowship as it was conditioned on me returning to my home country after the PhD), but anyway if you trust a professor enough to write a recommendation letter for you, you can also trust that he will submit on time.


There's sort of an unspoken rule that writers will not always get letters in on time and letters are frequently accepted late. But late acceptance usually depends on how prestigious the thing you're applying to is. Your case is iffy. The general rule is to write early and often: Two months, one month, two weeks, one week, two days, day of, and shameful "you're late email" and a follow up with the program about whether they're still accept your letter. The place you're applying to will also, often, send reminder emails to the writer.

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