Several weeks after I received the recommendation from Professor M, he sent an email to me and asked me about the result of my application to a graduate school. He wants to know whether his recommendation is helpful and my application is accepted or not.

Although I have submitted my application and supporting documents to the graduate admissions, the deadline for the program I have applied for is on the 18th April.

The only message I received from the graduate school was that they had received my application. I have no idea whether my application is successful or not, but the email from professor M made me nervous.

I can see that there are a lot of professors here. I guessed that some of you had written recommendation letters for your students. I would love to know this:

What were your reactions when you heard of your students telling you that their applications failed or your recommendation letters useless?

I feel scared when thinking of this situation.

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    I can not understand what is the problem here. Prof wants to know the results, you do not know the results now. You tell him, sorry, I do not know results yet, will let you know AFAP. Sounds super easy to me. Feb 18, 2015 at 21:08
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    Maybe the undeerlying intention of him is to show interest of what you do, or keep in contact for some reason. Then, the question would be just something like "smaltalk", with not much relevance. Feb 19, 2015 at 0:00
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    Just tell the professor that you don't know yet. I don't think it was his intention to suggest you should have received an answer by now, but if it was, he'll probably let you know (after all, he took the liberty of contacting you about it out of the blue...)
    – Jasper
    Feb 19, 2015 at 14:07

2 Answers 2


"Was my letter helpful?" is really a pretty useless question: assuming that you used the letter, you'll never really know whether it helped or hurt, because the admissions committee should not ever give you that information. The professor is probably really just asking the second question twice with different word: did you get in?

You should not feel nervous about this. Instead, you should feel good, because it means the professor cares enough about you to follow up with you and to hope that you've gotten good news. Thank the professor for their interest, tell them the letter was helpful (after all, it helped you fulfill the requirements to apply), but that you don't yet have any news because of the late deadline of this particular program.

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    +1 for the "tell them the letter was helpful". Unless you didn't use the letter at all, you should reply that the letter was helpful and much appreciated, and that you have not heard any results yet but will let the professor know as soon as you hear anything.
    – Wayne
    Feb 18, 2015 at 17:25

You should not be nervous about the enquiry, he just wants to know the outcome. Many academics lose track of time and/or have unrealistic expectations about how fast things move. I would respond that you haven't heard anything yet, but will let him know, regardless of the outcome, when you hear.

If you get in, he will fell happy for you and if you don't get in he will feel a little sad for you. Even if you are unsuccessful, I would not tell a letter writer that the letter was "useless". The only case I might say something like that, and I would be much more positive about it, is if you chose not to use that individual as a reference. Something like: for that position, I was limited on the number of reference I could submit and I felt my other references were a better fit for the position.

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    I would just tell him in the email that the application deadline is not for 2 months, so you may not hear back for a few months (in case he thinks you should've heard by now, or sometime soon).
    – Kimball
    Feb 18, 2015 at 13:18
  • @Kimball A mid April deadline seems very late, so I was thinking the department probably makes rolling decisions.
    – StrongBad
    Feb 18, 2015 at 13:28
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    It is late for most programs in the US. Since the OP didn't say anything about rolling admissions, I was thinking it might be in another country where they don't start reviewing until April, but you might be right. @kitty, do you want to clarify?
    – Kimball
    Feb 18, 2015 at 13:41
  • I am not sure, kimball. I don't know much about their policy, I mean the school I have applied for. Thank you.
    – kitty
    Feb 18, 2015 at 13:51
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    @kitty That doesn't necessarily mean rolling admissions (which means they review applications and give offers as they come in, rather than after the deadline). Usually (I think) if they do rolling admissions, the ads should say so (or at least say something like "applications before Feb 14 will be given priority") to let candidates know they have a better chance if they apply early. (BTW if you don't address me with '@' I won't get notified of your comment.)
    – Kimball
    Feb 18, 2015 at 14:14

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