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Articles / Applying to College / Help! My teacher sent my recommendation before I even applied!

Help! My teacher sent my recommendation before I even applied!

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Oct. 2, 2008

Question: I'm applying to an Ivy League college via Early Decision, and so I asked my teacher for a recommendation a while ago because I wanted to give her plenty of time to work on it. I had told her that there was no rush because the ED deadline isn't until the start of November. I asked her to please tell me before mailing the rec letter to be certain that my application had already been submitted. However, she told me today that she has sent in the rec letter already. I HAVEN'T EVEN SUBMITTED MY APPLICATION YET! The admissions people won't have a clue who I am, and my application isn't nearly ready to send. This is a big mess. What should I do?

First, take a deep breath! This is totally normal. College folks get materials all the time before the application arrives. They simply put all the stuff that doesn't match an applicant's name into a carefully organized "general file." So, when your application does show up, the secretarial staff will go through the general file to see if any of your materials are in there. See ... no sweat. :-)

Just to be on the safe side, however, make sure that your teacher clearly put your name and your high school name in the reference letter. She probably did, but, if you have a common name (or even a not-so-common one) and there aren't any other identifying details in the letter, it could cause a mix-up. (Seems unlikely, but do check with your teacher.)

As you go through this complex process, it's a good idea to wait about 10 days after you've submitted ALL materials (or think that you have) and then contact colleges to be sure that everything arrived safely and was properly filed. But even if something is missing and the deadline is behind you, colleges will give you a reasonable amount of time to track it down.

So, again don't worry. You're fine.

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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