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I wrote my graduate advisor asking him to updated his reference letters for me, but he has yet to respond. I e-mailed him again, but he and I did not have the best relationship, and I am worried that now that I have graduated, he may not do this for me. I was curious about I should do in the situation that he refuses to update it.

I have been told it raises questions when a letter is not included in applications.

His old letter is stored on mathjobs.org, and the last date was probably April of this year. I was curious that, if I have to, would it look bad if I use the old letter?

If anything, since I have deadlines coming up, can I use the old letter as a placement? I was told I can mention that a letter should be updated soon in my cover letter.

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    You can check the expiration date of the letter on MathJobs; it will be very awkward if it expires partway through the application process. Also, note that your advisor will be able to remove or update the letter at any time, which could be a problem if he is really vindictive - he could replace the letter with something unfavorable. So in short, regardless of how an old letter looks to the committee, it may not be wise to use the letter against your advisor's wishes. – Nate Eldredge Nov 16 '15 at 15:15
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    I think you would not want to use, or try to use, an old letter, especially if un-dated, etc. – paul garrett Nov 16 '15 at 17:06
  • @NateEldredge Can you please turn your comment into an answer so that I can vote it up? – jakebeal Jan 26 '16 at 11:22
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Not exactly an answer, but a couple things to note.

Letters on MathJobs expire eventually; I think you can see the expiration date on the "cover sheet" page. It will be very awkward if it expires partway through the application process.

Also, note that your advisor will be able to remove or update the letter at any time, which could be a problem if he is really vindictive - he could replace the letter with something unfavorable.

So in short, regardless of how an old letter looks to the committee, it may not be wise to use the letter against your advisor's wishes.

  • Is it really against the advisor's wishes, or simply that the advisor cannot be bothered to update the letter? The OP says he emailed, but we do not know whether he got an answer. – Bob Brown Jan 26 '16 at 14:58
  • @BobBrown: The question asks what to do "in the situation that he refuses to update it". – Nate Eldredge Jan 26 '16 at 15:00
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Using an old letter of reference might not be so effective, due to a variety of reasons. Firstly, most of position holders expect to have the most recent status of the applicant from the presented information within the letters. So, you should not wonder if such committees will not take considerable attention to a letter, does which consist of the explanation about you, corresponding to some long time ago. Secondly, even if no date has been inserted within the letter and the committee would accept it, you better not to use such letter. Because, your current situation could be, noticeably, better than that time and the more recent letters will, totally, reflect a more up-to-date overview from you.

In a positive perspective about the advisor's behavior in this story, you could assume that he might not consider himself as a qualified referencing person for you, anymore. He knew you and your characteristics for some times ago and could not be sure to depict you as well as that time. Therefore, he might be no longer to act as a right reference for you, now.

It is, however, inevitable to use the old letter, if your time up to the deadlines are restricted.

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