When should one ask for letters recommendations of the people of one's choice? E.g. when applying for a PhD program, should you ask for two or three letters all at once or should one collect a letter immediately after one has finished something significant like an undergraduate thesis, an (under)graduate research paper or Master's thesis, so that one has all the letters together covering maybe 2 or 3 years when applying for a PhD position?

  • 2
    I used both scenarios on different occasions. It is really up to you and how close you (know) and will be around your referees
    – The Guy
    Commented Apr 9, 2016 at 2:26
  • agreed with TheFireGuy. if you're in, say, a small STEM department, your good work and efforts won't be forgotten - at least not for awhile. But, if you are talking about being a student at a large business school, with hundreds of students in those finance and economics lectures, then you might want to set up something like a credential file to be kept at the school, so that you waive your right to read your profs' letters -- confidential letters of reference about your work are what's meaningful, and grad schools will look for this.
    – User001
    Commented Apr 9, 2016 at 5:11
  • 1
    So, to summarize: you recommend asking for the letters immediately if the risk exists that they won't remember one's work after several years and asking for the letters when time comes if there's a good chance that they do remember. In any case, the letter must be sent by the recommending person and can't just be taken home and put next to the undergraduate thesis until one wants to use them for application?
    – Lucas
    Commented Apr 9, 2016 at 13:02

1 Answer 1


You can choose either of the options, but I would wait at least till I've had quite a few accomplishment. However, some professors take a long time to write, so it would be good to approach them at least a few months before you start applying. Letter of recommendation can be collected and filed till the time you need them.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .