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What If My Recommender Never Sent Their Letter?

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If you have reason to believe your recommender did not send his or her letter of recommendation, stay calm. It’s not the end of the world, and there are many steps you can take to rectify the situation. It’s important to stay calm and not panic. Read on for advice on communicating with colleges and getting a letter of recommendation in to complete your application.

[What makes a good recommendation letter?]

Call the Admissions Office Immediately


First, you should confirm that the letter has not been sent and that the schools to which you are applying have not received it. Contact the admissions office as soon as possible. Calling the office directly is better than sending an email, because you need a response right away. You should look for the admissions office phone number on the school’s admissions website, where there may be separate phone numbers to call about forgotten or missing materials. Additionally, you may find school-specific information on handling the situation.


When you call the admissions office, explain the situation calmly and clearly, and ask if you can be granted an extension to submit the letter. If the situation was completely out of your control (which you should make clear in your explanation, if this was the case), colleges generally tend to be more forgiving than not.


Unfortunately, sometimes schools may be unable to accommodate students who have missed the deadline for a component of their application. While this is unfortunate, it does sometimes happen, and if it does it’s important to remain calm and remember that there are other options available to you for college – just because one didn’t work out doesn’t mean the rest of them won’t. It’s worth getting in touch with every college for which the letter was required and not sent and see what their policy is on late materials.


Reach Out to Your Teacher


Assuming you are granted an extension, reach out to your teacher and politely inquire about his or her letter. A good question to start with is asking if he or she was unable to submit the letter and how you can help make that process easier. This is not a time for you to get upset with or blame your teacher. Treat this as an opportunity to show your recommender your ability to handle tough situations, and remember that, ultimately, he or she is doing you a favor by recommending you.


If There Were Technical Reasons…


If the letter is missing because of technical reasons (perhaps they could not figure out how to submit the letter or they just plain forgot), be patient and do not lose your temper. Your job is to remain calm and make sure the letter gets submitted. You might offer to contact the admissions office for help on submitting recommendations.


If You Have an Unreliable Recommender…


If the teacher is being uncooperative or you no longer think you can rely on him or her as recommender—for instance, if he or she completely forgot to write the letter or does not seem to prioritize your recommendation—you should try to find a different teacher to write a new recommendation last minute. While this situation is unfortunate, you must ultimately consider not only who can best represent you as a student and person, but also who will follow through once they agree to do so.


When Asking a New Teacher…


When requesting a last minute recommendation from a new teacher, be sure to communicate the gravity of the situation while also being patient and understanding. This teacher does not owe you a recommendation, so you want to demonstrate to him or her why you are making this request at the last minute and why it’s important. Staying calm and polite during a stressful situation demonstrates your maturity, so try to keep a level head, even though the situation is stressful.


When you find a teacher who is willing to write a last minute recommendation, be sure he or she understands it needs to be submitted as soon as possible. One way to do this is to ask the college for a drop-dead date by which the recommendation absolutely has to be submitted, enabling you to communicate the deadlines and time frame to your teacher clearly and realistically.


The Take-Away


  • If your recommender never sent the letter, do not panic, and remind yourself that this can be fixed.


  • Call the admissions offices at the schools to which you are applying and confirm that they have not received the letter.


  • Explain the situation clearly and honestly and ask for an extension on the letter deadline.


  • Help your teacher submit the letter, if they ran into a technical issue.


  • If it seems like her or she is not going to work out as your recommender, ask another teacher for a new recommendation as soon as possible and communicate with him or her about the time frame.


Stay calm—you can fix this! If you’re looking for more advice on choosing recommenders, wondering who and when to ask, or submitting an additional letter of recommendation, CollegeVine has answers.


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Julia Mearsheimer
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Julia Mearsheimer attends the University of Chicago. She is considering majoring in Philosophy, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, or Political Science, but remains undecided. In addition to writing, she enjoys listening to Nina Simone and baking bread.