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Articles / Applying to College / What Happens When Teacher Recs Arrive Post-Deadline?

What Happens When Teacher Recs Arrive Post-Deadline?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Nov. 25, 2014

Question: Our daughter is applying early action to Dickinson. The deadline is December 1. She has submitted her common app and supplemental essay and test scores. Her transcripts have been sent. The college has not received her teacher recommendations or her Q1 senior grades yet. (She asked 2 teachers to write recommendations in early October. They agreed to, but they haven’t submitted them yet.) If the college doesn’t get everything from the school by December 1, will they still consider her for early action?

When it’s the teacher who’s tardy, colleges won’t penalize the student … at least to a point. If your daughter’s references haven’t arrived at Dickinson by the December 1 deadline, your daughter need not worry. But if she’ll see her teachers tomorrow morning, before the Thanksgiving vacation, she should use the opportunity to rattle their cages so that they can get cracking on these overdue letters as soon as they’ve digested their turkey.  Over the break, your daughter can then send a follow-up email to each as an added reminder. If the letters haven’t been sent by December 3rd, she should also send a note to the regional admissions rep at Dickinson and explain that she’s done all the nudging that she can muster and that the recommendations should be on the way.

It can take up to a couple weeks for colleges to process the avalanche of materials that arrive right on deadline, so that will buy your daughter some time to harangue her teachers until they submit their recommendations.

I went through something very similar with my own son, also a senior, who had November 1 EA deadlines. He’d given his reference requests to two teachers back in mid-September but only one met the deadline. As the end of October loomed, he was getting antsy about the second teacher. (Given that this was a guy who hadn’t handed back homework by the end of the semester last spring, I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised.) My son started talking about approaching a different teacher and asking for mercy (and a quick turnaround time). We also talked about alerting the guidance counselor so that she could give Mr. Tardy a gentle shove. But my son was wary of ratting out a teacher who was about to write on his behalf … and perhaps with good reason. These can be delicate matters for sure!  But, finally, the original teacher came through (so my son didn’t need a Plan B) although it was several days past the deadline by then.

I promised my son that the late reference wouldn’t affect his admission outcomes, and I can say the same to your daughter as well. But, nonetheless, she needs to stay on top of this. And, after the teachers have (finally) complied, she should send each a nice thank-you note and perhaps a token gift. (My son bought gifts that were small but appropriate and thoughtful … a cool cribbage board for teacher who’d taught the calculus class how to play cribbage and funny dog toys for the “mother” of two active pooches.)

As for the first-quarter grades, don’t worry about those either. If they’re a little late it’s not a problem. The Dickinson admission folks will phone your daughter’s school counselor if they’re getting antsy before the report reaches her file.

However, ultimately it’s your daughter’s responsibility to make certain that her file is complete. So she will have to stay on top of this until she’s sure that all credentials have arrived safely.


Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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