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How much is it appropriate to bug a prof for a LoR?

  1. Oct 10, 2015 #1

    I've just been having an issue recently and don't know how to approach it. I did an REU over the summer with a professor and I performed quite well. When I mentioned I might apply for the NSF GRFP this fall, the professor told me that if I wanted him to proofread my application essay or to write letters of recommendation, he would gladly do so.

    I e-mailed him well over a month ago (September 4), attached my paper, and asked him to please proofread it (asking very nicely, doing all of the usual courtesies, etc. etc.). He told me to e-mail him again a week later to remind him, which I did. I haven't heard back since.

    I've emailed him twice since then, once as another friendly reminder, and once again asking for a letter of recommendation. Still nothing.

    The deadline for the GRFP is in less than 3 weeks, and I am still up a creek without a paddle. And since my more "technical essay" deals with the research I did with him, there is hardly anyone else that I can have proofread it, since no one at my university even works in the same field as he does. I also really need the letter of recommendation - without it, my application will not be nearly as strong and I might as well not even apply.

    Honestly, I am really starting to get a bit upset. I gave him plenty of notice, was very kind, and did great work over the summer (his words, not mine). What do I do? I have tried hunting for a phone number but I have found nothing. He is also 1000 miles away from where I live. At this point, I would even be fine with an "I'm sorry, but I'm too busy" email.

    TL;DR - professor disappeared from the face of the planet, promised me an LoR but won't respond, I don't want to bug him.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 10, 2015 #2


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    If he told you that he would do it, a phone call would be fine, and even appropriate. Depending on this professor's email habits, it's possible he's missed your emails.
  4. Oct 10, 2015 #3


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    You should be able to call the university and get a number for the professor or at least the department he works in.

    You can try e-mailing him again and tactfully let him know how worried and stressed you feel because you haven't heard from him. Give him an out as well, "I realize you're busy. If you're not going to be able to proofread my paper and write me a letter of recommendation, please let me know as soon as possible so I can make other arrangements." You should probably start working on a Plan B in case he doesn't follow through on his promise. Just accept that your application may not be as strong as you had hoped.

    Try to keep in mind that there are all sorts of reasons the professor might not be responding — family emergency, illness, death in the family, etc.
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