I asked this professor for a recommendation letter last admissions season, and got a yes immediately and was very good about sending in letters.

This year it's much much harder to get a hold of them, and haven't responded to my recommendation letter email that I sent yesterday (I only sent it late this time because I figured they'd say yes) and my first deadlines are tomorrow. Would it be rude to just put the name in anyway, assuming they don't reply tomorrow? They've done it before so I figure it wouldn't be a bother for them to just re-send letters, but I'm worried it would be rude. But my future is at stake here.

Update: It ended up working out; thanks for your help.

  • 5
    You should never trust that someone will definitely answer your email within a day, even though it is common courtesy or if you know the professor well, especially when your request is important. Also, it is unrealistic to expect the professor to craft/modify a recommendation letter in just one day. This is a major miscalculation on your part. However, some programs are not strict sticklers for deadlines, so if you are lucky...
    – Drecate
    Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 22:41
  • Why can't you use the letter he had written previously? Is the programme/job you are applying for too important?
    – ahorn
    Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 12:50
  • 3
    @ahorn because Datsura having a copy of the letter to use would violate the understanding and trust that a reference letter is the referee's own words and has been kept confidential. The professor can re-use the letter, sure – but Datsura should never even see it.
    – Moriarty
    Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 14:37

3 Answers 3


You should absolutely NEVER list somebody as a recommendation without permission. Its asking for trouble. Your deadline issue is YOUR issue, not your recommenders. If time is critical, you should have mentioned that in your earlier email. You should consider a followup email, letting him know that time is critical, or even stop by is office or call.

  • 1
    +1. On deadlines – only the OP's problem because the timeframe is very short (~few days). If a deadline is more than about a week away, and the professor agrees to write the letter, then it's the professor's responsibility to get it done in time (perhaps with a reminder or two from the student).
    – Moriarty
    Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 10:02
  • @Moriarty I'm betting the student is talking about the deadline to complete the application, and the deadline to submit the letter is later -- but absolutely, if ou commit to something with career ramifications for someone else, that's a deadline never to be missed. Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 11:46

I think the way this will be perceived comes down to the individual professor.

I've had a student put me down as a reference without asking, and a potential employer call me to ask about him. I didn't find it particularly rude, just a bit surprising. I was also not as well prepared as I could have been, which might have been beneficial in the conversation with the recruiter. It was also lucky that I was available to talk when I received the call. To be honest I was actually happy that the student trusted me enough to put me down as a reference. I'm not a professor, though -- maybe it makes a difference.


The most scathing reaction I ever gave to a reference check phone call was "I'm terribly sorry, but Jim did not ask my permission to use him as a reference." I did not elaborate and the caller ended the call quickly.

There are two reasons why the professor is not being as good about providing a reference as last year:

(1) They meant to, but haven't gotten around to it.

(2) Their opinion of you has changed and they have been putting off the unpleasant task of declining the request.

Do not use someone for a reference without their permission.

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