I finished my undergraduate degree in mathematics about two years ago, and started a master's program last year. Now that I am about half way through the MS program, I am convinced that I want to get into a doctoral program. I was admitted to the master's program based upon very strong recommendations from respected scientists at the university where my undergraduate degree was obtained.

The MS program I am attending is at a small, noncompetitive institution. I am thinking that recommendation letters from this school would not be as meaningful. Also, based upon the limited scope of the research being conducted here, and my limited capacity to participate, I fear that letters from these professors might not be as strongly worded.

It is my intention to apply to several programs starting in December of this year. My question is this: Is it unreasonable to ask for my old references to "re-send" their letters of recommendation, almost 3 years after my association with them has concluded? Would it seem peculiar to the admissions board if all of my recommendation letters came from a school other than the one where I (will) have completed my MS?

  • I am afraid if all of my recommendation letters came from a school would be a problem.
    – Nobody
    Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 4:50
  • 1
    You are asking two different questions at the end. For the first, what you should do is update your old professors on what you have been doing--e.g., CV, statement of purpose (and if easy to arrange, it's not a bad idea to meet them briefly in person). Then they will likely revise their old letters for you.
    – Kimball
    Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 10:55

1 Answer 1


It would be normal to have some letters of recommendation from professors at your undergraduate institution. In my experience, faculty often write such letters for students a few years after they've graduated and will typically keep old letters of recommendation on file as a starting point for an updated letter.

However, it is also important to have positive letters of recommendation from your current advisor and possibly others at your current institution. If you don't get such recommendation letters, then this could be taken as a sign that you've done badly at your current institution.

  • What about one from the MS (from the department chair) and two from undergrad? You seem to imply that it is not necessarily too late to ask my old references for another letter.
    – user32663
    Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 5:01

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