As graduate school application deadlines roll around this season, I believe this site would get a lot of questions concerning letters of recommendation, including sending reminder e-mails to professors about this.

My question is now what is the best approach to sending a second reminder to a professor concerning writing an LOR? A couple months ago, after having discussed my graduate school plans with the professor, they agreed to write his letter and have me send them the e-mail link to the LOR. I sent the first reminder last week, but they did not respond. And this professor is normally responsive in e-mails about other things, such as coursework and advising. I suspect the professor is beyond busy, and I hope that is the case; I just hope they haven't forgotten about the LOR or changed their mind about it.

I would like to add further that my two other recommenders have already submitted their LORs. I am still waiting on this professor now. Should I mention this in my second reminder e-mail to them, if I should send that second reminder at all? What should I be saying in the e-mail, to politely remind them for the second time?

Any input helps.

A week since your first reminder is somewhat on the short side - personally I would wait a couple more days (maybe two weeks since the last email) to send another email.

A week before the deadline is a good point of time to send a reminder. There is no need to state that this is a second (or nth) reminder. A short email, roughly of the form 'thanks again for agreeing to write a recommendation letter for me. I just wanted to quickly remind you that the deadlines are one week away. Please let me know if you need any more information from me. Thanks again for all your help, etc.' is sufficient.

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    Be sure to be specific about the deadline. "One week away" isn't really enough in the second reminder. Something like, "I hope you will be able to get this done by the deadline of Friday, February 16." – Bob Brown Jan 11 '15 at 17:11
  • Yes--definitely specify the deadline. – MissMonicaE Oct 20 '16 at 18:15

I wouldn't re-follow up in just a week unless (a) the particular prof usually sends you "Thanks for the reminder; I'm on it"-type responses for this kind of thing or (b) the deadline is quite soon.

When you do follow up, I find it helpful to include a specific question (to prompt a response), such as "Should I resend the link?"

If you want to give them a bit more of a nudge, send your second reminder as a reply to the first, so that they'll see they already got a reminder.

Send a polite email. Also contact by phone. But do not hesitate to show the needed urgency. You might also want to request a fourth person to be ready to submit a recommendation for you, in case this one doesn't do it, finally, due to whatever reason. Waiting till one week before deadline is too risky.

(P.S. Three years back, I was in a similar situation. Only one professor, who was usually quick to respond to any email, was holding back due to some reason. Ultimately, close to deadline, I had to request a fourth professor who immediately obliged. )

  • I would definitely recommend against contacting a 'standby' letter-writer. No one wants to be fourth choice. – Aru Ray Jan 12 '15 at 12:47
  • No one wants to be 4th, but I guess quite a few should be ready to help out, in case a student's admission is in danger. Also, one can have a set of 4 profs, say, and each of them can initially be requested for 3 institutions. If one denies later, the other may chip in extra – DS R May 6 '16 at 11:47

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