Preparing for College

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

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.