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Articles / Applying to College / What Happens When Teacher Recommendations Are Late?

What Happens When Teacher Recommendations Are Late?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Oct. 28, 2020
What Happens When Teacher Recommendations Are Late?


I am starting to panic because my applications are all due this weekend and none of my teachers have sent recommendation letters. Most of my colleges require one or two, but I asked THREE teachers to write them because I know some teachers flake. And yet none of these three have submitted anything yet. Do I start nagging them or are teachers known to submit rec letters at the last minute? What will colleges think if these are late?

The vast majority of admission officers expect the student's portion of the application to arrive by the deadline but will allow some wiggle-room for the other components, including teacher recommendations, to show up a bit later. (And even officials at those few colleges where everything must be in by the due date will usually look the other way when teachers are tardy, although they don't advertise it.)

Yet, with your deadlines looming, it's still a good idea to "nag" your teachers now. You can do it nicely by simply asking if they've sent their references already rather than complaining that they haven't! (If you know through Naviance or some other college-document program used by your high school that the references have not been submitted, then that information is probably accurate. But if you're looking on college portals, there's a solid chance that the references did arrive but the college folks haven't posted this yet. It can often take admission staff a week or more to update their portals when new information comes in.)

It isn't unusual for teachers — much like the teenagers in their classes — to procrastinate until the last minute, and many teachers are swamped with dozens of references to write. So inevitably, they won't finish the final ones until they're right up against the deadline. So there's no need for you to worry quite yet, but do give your teachers a friendly nudge, just to make sure that you don't have anything to worry about in a couple weeks!

About the Ask the Dean Column

Sally Rubenstone is a veteran of the college admissions process and is the co-author of three books covering admissions. She worked as a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years and has also served as an independent college counselor, in addition to working as a senior advisor at College Confidential since 2002. If you'd like to submit a question to The Dean please email us at editorial@collegeconfidential.com.

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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