I have written an email to a professor asking him for a letter of recommendation. It's been almost a week and he didn't answer back.

I have already seen questions on this topic here, saying that when a professor doesn't answer is probably because he forgot or he overlooked it. However my question is: what is the best thing to do next? Send him another email? Or try and see him in person?

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    I don't usually answer if I don't have anything good to say about a student. Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 10:02
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    Possible duplicate of What does it mean if a professor does not answer your email in time?
    – Pont
    Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 10:50
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    @Prof.SantaClaus I generally do answer, and suggest that they instead ask a professor who is "better able to evaluate your potential." That allows the student to move forward, maybe, instead of wondering when I'll reply. Only once have I had a student insist. I explained to the student that my evaluation would necessarily reflect the student's performance in my classes. He still insisted, and I wrote the recommendation. It wasn't pretty.
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 12:40
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    A week isnt that much time. He's probably busy. If you needed it that quickly then you planned poorly, Im afraid. I say wait another week - he will either write the letter or write you back acknowledging your request. If it takes him longer than that to get back to you, send an email reminder (sometimes mail is forgotten or overlooked) or find him in person to ask. Or both. Id wait until week four before formally requesting that he write you an email rejecting your request, just so you can put it behind you. Dont get too pushy though. Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 22:16
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    @Prof.SantaClaus (and the one upvoting your comment): I find this a pretty unprofessionell attitude. In my opinion, every student deserves an answer (namely that you can't write them a good letter). Please reconsider your opinion about that (even if only to avoid that your students have to post questions like this one).
    – yupsi
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 19:14

2 Answers 2


What it means depends a lot on the proximity of your application deadline. If the deadline is looming, say, within ten days to two weeks, it means you should probably ask someone else. If the deadline is a month or more away, it means the professor is busy. (And, if you didn't tell the professor when the deadline is, it means you didn't provide enough information.)

Send a polite email that tells when the deadline is and asks whether the professor could write a recommendation by that time. That should get some kind of response, even if it's, "Sorry... I'm really busy right now and cannot do it."

Here is my general advice to students about recommendations: http://ksuweb.kennesaw.edu/faculty/rbrow211/recommendations/ It will likely help you to read it all, although the bit about communicating deadlines is the first item on the list, in bold type.


Just encountered the same issue. Sometimes it’s better to have any answer than be waiting. Try a follow up email: they may have been too busy to answer, especially they’re trying to think of a polite way to decline. Reply to your previous email to remind them of the request and make it clear that you understand if they cannot give a recommendation. For example, if they have not known you very long or do not have the relevant experience. Hopefully it is not such a desperate situation that you don’t have other referees. You need to make it clear that they are not obliged to recommend you. Otherwise, it may be easier for them not to reply or delay it longer. Obviously don’t pester them too often but I think after waiting for a week is reasonable if you chase it up politely.

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    In my experience it’s better to have requests with busy people in writing. At least in their inbox, you are on their to-do list.
    – Tom Kelly
    Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 10:40

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