ic S/general/checkmark circled Thanks for subscribing! Be on the lookout for our next newsletter.
ic S/general/checkmark circled Saved to Favorites.
Articles / Applying to College / My Teacher Gave Me My Letter of Reference

My Teacher Gave Me My Letter of Reference

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Dec. 4, 2013

Question: My teacher wrote a letter of recommendation for me but he handed it to me rather than sending it. I have it with me and I already read it. Would it look bad if I send it myself? What should I do?

Many colleges today receive teacher recommendations electronically, directly from the teachers who write them. But, at some high schools, teachers still snail-mail their references to colleges. In these cases, I always advise the student to give the teacher stamped envelopes addressed to the appropriate admission offices.

Thus, similarly, I recommend that you stamp an envelope, address it to the admission office, and mail this teacher’s reference to the college. (If there is more than one college involved, make copies of the reference and send one to each school.) Unlike in my own high school era many decades ago when references were always confidential, some teachers these days show students what they wrote … even when the teacher submitted the recommendation directly to colleges. Thus, the fact that you read your recommendation isn’t rare, and the teacher obviously intended for you to see it or he wouldn’t have handed it to you.

You didn’t follow the proper protocol but you didn’t do anything unethical either, so just mail the reference yourself. But, if you plan to ask this teacher—or any others—to write on your behalf in the future, and if these teachers will not be submitting their letters online, then present them with stamped envelopes so that you won’t be stuck in the middle again.


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.

More on Applying to College

See all
Can I Reapply After Early Decision or Early Action Rejection?

Can I Reapply After Early Decision or Early Action Rejection?

Question: If I apply to a college through Early Decision or Early Action, but I am not accepted, can I apply again through Regula…


Will It Be Another Record-Setting Year For College Applications?

During the 2020-2021 admissions cycle, the rise of test-optional policies in response to the global pandemic resulted in a surge …

emma-dau-n_4iTY1KmDE-unsplash (1)

What is Parents' Role in the College Process?

We took a trip to Boston last week. As educational consultants, part of our job is to travel the country to visit college and boa…


Coalition for College: More Than Just Another College Application

You may have heard about the Coalition application when learning about different types of applications that can be used to apply …


Questions to Ask Your College Interviewer (It Works Both Ways!)

As a college applicant, you may already know the feeling of relief when you hit submit. But wait, you're not done yet! Some …

Find Your Best Fit

Find your best fit college and track your favorite colleges.

Search Colleges