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I have an issue with my professors not responding and I wish that you could help me.

So in May, I talked to a few professors about recommendation letters and they all agreed to write me letters. I emailed two of them three days ago, and I emailed a new professor about whether he could write me a letter one day ago. But none of them replied. My first reaction was if the emails were sent successfully because I attached 4 documents to every email, and it had happened before where people don't receive my emails with large files, even when it says it's sent. However, I also BCCed myself to my school email (which have the same server as my professors) and my school emails received all my emails. And it's really strange for one of the professors not responding to the email, because he is really nice and he usually replies.

My question is since I'm not sure if it's a technical issue that my professors didn't get my emails, or it's simply because all of my professors don't want to write me letters (two of them agreed to do it earlier). If they all chose to say no by not responding to my emails, would it be annoying if I keep sending checking in emails to them? But I also can't sit around and wait forever.

Thanks for your time reading this and I'd really appreciate your advice!

  • Just asked my friend who also use school emails, and he received my email just fine, so it's not an issue with large attachments. – Lavender. S Oct 5 '16 at 1:09
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My mother used to say (this was in the days before the internet) that the moment the letter she'd written got picked up by the mailman, she was ready for an answer to arrive.

Three days is too soon to worry.

Normally one should wait two weeks before starting to worry. Try to wait two weeks.

If you really can't sleep, though, I suppose you could write again, briefly and politely, after one week. You might also visit them in their office hours to ask in person.

  • Thank you for the advice. One other thing that makes me worried is that I'm in a foreign country and I can't go to their office hours. So I should wait for one to two weeks? – Lavender. S Oct 5 '16 at 1:08
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    @Lavender.S - Unless your deadline is coming up soon, or you are really having trouble sleeping, two weeks would be good. ... Please note that you can phone a professor during scheduled office hours, if need be. – aparente001 Oct 5 '16 at 1:47
  • @Lavender.S - No rush, but at some point you may want to upvote one or more answers (by clicking on the upward facing diamond to the left of an answer). You may also want to "accept" an answer. That is done by clicking on the checkmark symbol. – aparente001 Oct 5 '16 at 12:47
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When are the letters due?

If they're due very soon (within a couple of days), I would just ping them again, and specifically ask them to respond to your email so that you know that they received it.

If they're not due very soon, chances are, they're just ignoring it because they don't think that your email requires a response (I do this very often). So wait a reasonable amount of time, and remind them again, this time requesting that they respond to your email.

AND if they don't respond after that, then you have a legitimate reason to panic and you are free to call up the department secretary/someone you are close to and get them to chase down the professors in person :)

  • I would definitely think twice about complaining to the department secretary about a professor not responding to your email. It runs a big risk of embarrassing the very person you're asking for a reference in front of what they may regard as a subordinate and of offending them. A better plan B would be to consider whether you might ask someone else to write your reference and, if so, tactfully offering your original reference an opportunity to be let off the hook. – Nicole Hamilton Oct 5 '16 at 7:15
  • @Nicolehamilton Well, if the OP is panicking about the professors not responding, then the deadline is very close, and the OP cannot risk asking someone else on a very short notice and getting a cranky recommender. Since it is the professional duty of the professor to write the letter once they said yes ( as you so elaborately pointed out in your other answer), I would in fact recommend that they chase the professor in any tactful way that they can think of and NOT get a new recommender. – Sana Oct 5 '16 at 7:53
  • @NicoleHamilton The link is here: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/77704/… – Sana Oct 5 '16 at 7:54
  • Not everyone keeps their promises. In your cited example, it wasn't obvious you were going to keep yours until you were told that you had to. Others may be more wiling to step in at the last minute, especially when the circumstances are explained. I've personally been on both sides of a plan B, having to scramble to find someone else to step in at the last minute and being the person who did step in at the last minute. If you live long enough, it happens, not just with references but lots of things. – Nicole Hamilton Oct 5 '16 at 14:44

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