I am applying for a very competitive grant call for PhDs and I need as minimun 3 letter out of a maximun of 4.

I have already 3 from different professors but a 4th would come very handy so I decided to ask for it to my master's thesis supervisor.

He had not replied yet. For 2 weeks approximately.

This kind of questions has been answered here but with a difference, this mail was a first approximation so I don't have any previous agreement with him.

Recently I asked to other professor at the same institution and he has not answered yet either.

I finished the master in a friendly way, is it possible that the institution has decided not to support me?. When I was doing the master thesis I moved onto a different internship because I didn't see much of future prospects at what I was doing neither any salary. Even though I got a grant from that institution to study their master.

I'm applying for these grants with a project deeply involved with what I am working now, but absolutely nothing to do to my previous "research".

Is it a good idea to send a last email or to look for another professor at such entity/another? Deadline is within next week.

  • Without a letter from your master's thesis supervisor you shouldn't apply. If the deadline is next week, your are way too late. It seems that you left a bad impression, for otherwise he would reply.
    – Rüdiger
    Feb 25, 2017 at 20:08
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    @Rüdiger I'm not sure that this jump from "no reply" to "bad impression" is justified. Never blame on malice what could be incompetence, professors are mostly notoriously bad at answer mails. OP should have asked personally (or by phone, at least, if personally is unfeasible). Mails are a very unreliable way of doing important stuff. Feb 25, 2017 at 21:12
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    Also, even if you don't have a letter from your master's thesis supervisor, while this may harm your application, it doesn't mean you have no chance. So saying "you shouldn't apply" is not good at all!
    – AJK
    Feb 27, 2017 at 2:06

1 Answer 1


Professors are very busy. I wouldn't take "no reply" as "don't want to do it", your email may well be sitting in a folder labeled "look at these later" somewhere...

Send both professors another email, and begin the subject line with "Time sensitive" to get their attention (eg. "Time sensitive: Letter of recommendation"). You might also try calling, although if all you have is an office phone number, many profs are even worse with their office voicemail than they are with emails.

When you email, include your CV, and a separate document with some bullet points about yourself and your achievements (both during your time with them and since your graduation if applicable). The less work they have to do to write the letter for you, the more likely they'll be able to fit it into their busy schedule.

Keep trying -- but do NOT worry too much if you can't get a letter, that does NOT automatically disqualify you. Unlike with a PhD advisor, who only works with a few students and works with them for several years (it would be weird not to get a reference there), a masters' thesis advisor works with many more students and for a shorter period of time, so it's not that unusual to not be able to get a reference (especially if it's been a few years - mine barely remembered me when I contacted him for a reference three years later).

  • Thank you for your message and the support. Since I already asked to another professor and I got the same (non) response I have declined to try to get a letter from them. As you say where I study most of master works take only few months, not a whole year. Even when I was doing the master some professors were reluctant to write a letter being asked personally. So today I imagine it could be an institution rule. I hope I am lucky enough. Feb 27, 2017 at 8:35

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