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Reminding a difficult professor to submit his LOR.... 
4th-Nov-2013 10:34 am
Tobias Fabulous
Hi there!

I have one letter-writer who does everything last minute in terms of submission. When I worked for him as a researcher, everything we submitted was done last minute.

He agreed to write me a LOR but getting him to submit it has been a nightmare. I have read that the sooner you submit your apps, the better your odds are, but this guy is the only thing holding me back from submitting my application. And he's a crabby guy, who is difficult to deal with. How do I ask him tactfully to submit the letter when I send the links out?

4th-Nov-2013 08:56 pm (UTC)
Tell him flat out when you want it done by. Give him that date as if it is the due date. Don't be afraid to send reminder emails weekly until its done. "Hello Professor X, I'm just writing to give you a friendly reminder that my application for Y needs to be submitted in Z days! If you've submitted your letter just let me know! Thank you, Student." Repeat until complete.
5th-Nov-2013 04:13 am (UTC)
I wish I had done this at the beginning. But I told him that apps are due December 1st :/ If he's mad about me backtracking, I think I'll just have to deal with it.
4th-Nov-2013 11:26 pm (UTC)
I agree with somniumdraconae about how to deal with the situation.

I also wanted to add that unless the programs you are applying to have rolling admissions, your odds are not better if you submit your apps sooner. Yes, your odds are better if you submit the apps on time, but not if they're submitted sooner.
5th-Nov-2013 03:17 am (UTC)
Unless you need to submit the letters in your paper application packet (or they have some strange online application setup that requires letters to be completed before submitting), how is an uncompleted letter stopping you from applying? Schools understand that student submitted information usually comes in first, followed by transcripts and letters of recommendation. They also understand the professors are busy and letters of recommendation are often late due to factors outside of the student's control. Just go ahead and submit your application.

Do not send weekly reminders, that will just annoy your professor, who is probably busy. Remind him a couple times as the deadline approaches, but weekly is way too often.

Edited at 2013-11-05 03:17 am (UTC)
6th-Nov-2013 03:12 am (UTC)
Depending on exactly what/where the application is for, one late LOR can disqualify your entire application. Yup, even though it isn't your fault. It is your responsibility to make sure your materials are submitted on time. So yes, send reminders, and don't count on the school or whatever you are applying to "understanding" that professors are "always late".
6th-Nov-2013 04:20 am (UTC)
It would have to be very late for that to happen, from my experience. Admittedly my experience applying to and attending graduate school is in the humanities, so perhaps the sciences are less understanding. Usually schools contact you to ask what is going on with your LORs if they are late enough that it might be a problem. If every school disqualified people with late LORs, there would be very few people getting into graduate school!

I still stand by my statement that e-mailing a reminder to professor every week is a good way to annoy them. Professors are very busy, and get hundreds of e-mails each week. Adding on additional ones is not going to endear you to them, and could impact the quality of your LOR. By all means, remind them, but at reasonable intervals, not once a week.

I also stand by the statement that most application do not require a completed LOR to submit the student portion, particularly now that most applications are electronic.

Edited at 2013-11-06 04:22 am (UTC)
6th-Nov-2013 04:24 am (UTC)
I never disagreed with the last. In my experience you can submit the student's portion while still awaiting letters.
5th-Nov-2013 05:32 am (UTC)
I like the idea of giving him a due date to make it specific. You can say that you want to clarify the due date, and say you need it before the application date so you can send in everything on time. (If possible, maybe think of a back-up LOR writer? Although I know that's hard, I had to come up with 3 required, and I don't know what what would have done if one of them said no!)

Anyway, best of luck!
5th-Nov-2013 06:09 am (UTC)
This happened to me and a professor flat out did not submit his LOR after telling me he would after I harassed him 1 week before it was due (I had asked approx 3 months in advance and he agreed then). Some colleges are fine with LOR's being received after the due date, I still got in to 3 great universities. They are more flexible with LOR's because it is often not in your hands. Good luck.
5th-Nov-2013 07:24 am (UTC)
You might want to find someone else to write your letter if necessary. While it would be great for it to come from someone you researched with, it would also be great to actually have one. Most schools will actually take more LoRs than they ask for, but you might want to contact the school and ask them, hypothetically, if you have an extra letter and one is submitted after the deadline will they take them all into account.
15th-Nov-2013 05:26 am (UTC)
If you ever deal with him in the future, give him an earlier due date than you actually need it. If the application deadline is December 15, tell him it's December 1.

Also, you can submit the rest of your application without his letter.

I would also ask a fourth recommender to submit a letter for you just in case.
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