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I'm applying to a BS/MS program and I'm gathering recommendations. I'm an international student from China and I was transferred to my current college last year.

Two weeks ago, I went to see my professor during his office hours to ask if he could write me a recommendation letter. He agreed and told me to email him.

I sent my request a week later and it was just a general email asking for recommendation (without mentioning when I'd visited him).

I still haven't got a response from that professor. It's possible that the professor didn't recognize me in the email, since I sent that only one week after going to his office.

Should I leave him a reminder in a follow-up email? Or should I do so in person?

  • If you're on campus, stopping by might not be a bad idea. It indicates that you believe the letter is important enough for you to ask him about the update. – Compass Nov 25 '14 at 16:42
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    If the professor didn't recognize you from the name you signed at the bottom of your email, what makes you (or him, for that matter!) think he is able to write you a recommendation letter? How does he know you - in what capacity have you worked with him? – Moriarty Nov 25 '14 at 17:07
  • I approved and slightly edited a suggested edit on this. But why would someone edit it 2 1/2 years after the original post? And why isn't that more obvious in the review process? – Fred Douglis May 12 '17 at 18:05
  • @FredDouglis I'm very sorry. I'd noticed the date of this question, but the question was so full of waffles and unnecessary details, that I thought editing it would be a good idea. – Soha Farhin Pine May 13 '17 at 1:33
  • @SohaFarhinPine no problem, I wouldn't care except that by being last to edit, it made it look like I was the one who resurrected it. But I don't see much point.... – Fred Douglis May 13 '17 at 1:35
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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 program/ fellowship] is quickly approaching. I would like to inquire if there is still any document I can supply to make your writing easier in addition to what we discussed during office hours 2 weeks ago.

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,

[Your name + ideally a link to some website containing your photo]

6

My experience was that professors tend to take long time to write recommendations and many of them just forget that you requested one. I would send him an email then visit him a few days later if he doesn't reply. You need to give many warnings and reminders or otherwise you will not get it.

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Here is a useful and ethical problem free hack for emails in academia or any place where emails are used a lot:

Send your email at the right time - Not after dinner time so that next day when the person you are trying to contact opens the email in the morning and yours is under 1000 other emails... So I would say send it around the time where workday starts or around lunch. Then the chances of your email being in the top 10 and visible are much higher.

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    Generally, this is good advice. But... My experience is that for myself and many of my colleagues, particularly those with kids.. We check our e-mail in the late evening. I sometimes get immediate replies from faculty at 10 pm. And sometimes I ignore e-mail at lunch because I'm in the middle of writing. – Geoff Hutchison Jan 20 '15 at 16:28
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    In short, I'd say time of day can help, but it's not always clear what time is optimum for different faculty. – Geoff Hutchison Jan 20 '15 at 16:28
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Here is a useful hack for emails in academia:

Email your professor with a subject line about his research. Pick something about their research that intrigues you and ask a pointed question.

Then remind them you are also waiting for their response regarding writing a letter of recommendation. The professor may have decision paralysis when weighing other tasks they have against writing a letter. They may not have even closely read your request. They may have thought about getting to it later, but later may never be. Try this solution as it will get them to read your email. It's better if you do a bit of research regarding their work to make it sincere.

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    This is a bad idea. If I thought that your inquiry about my research was just a ploy to get me to open your mail, then you've demoted yourself in my mind. – RoboKaren Nov 25 '14 at 21:36

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