My Recommender Has Never Sent a Letter, Now What?

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Submitting applications to colleges, internships, or jobs are always quite intimidating. The application process is usually quite lengthy, taking up to a few days to complete. However, when you rely on other people for your application, things get even more complex. That could come in various forms, including asking for recommendation letters.

This article will focus solely on recommendation letters and what happens if your college of choice never receives them. While such situations can induce an ample amount of anxiety, the initial step is staying calm. Find out all answers to your recommender-related questions below.

What is a Letter of Recommendation?What is a Letter of Recommendation?

There are numerous types of recommendation letters meant for diverse purposes. For instance, many employers prefer having recommendation letters for prospective employees. This often helps them evaluate whether they desire that specific individual and whether that person would be an asset to the company.

The same exact concept applies to college recommendation letters. They’re endorsement letters in which someone, usually a professor, writes you a brief yet formal piece that bolsters your chances of getting admitted.

However, knowing who to ask for such an influential piece of paper can be tricky. Not every professor is qualified enough, and not each one of them knows you well enough. Hence, you should always aim to ask a professor that you’re close enough to who is also aware of your strengths and assets.

But what is the process of asking for a recommendation letter? It’s pretty simple. You might get in direct contact with the professor you want the letter to be written by. Then, a general confirmation should be made simply to ensure the person will write the letter. Make sure your professor is aware of when the deadline is.

How to Ask for a Recommendation Letter?

How to Ask for a Recommendation Letter?

Many modern-day recommendation letters are sent online, typically with the online Common Application recommendation letter form. Some general tips on how to ask your professor for a recommendation letter include the following steps:

  • Make sure you ask your professor beforehand, preferably at least a month earlier.
  • Ask your recommender to write you a letter when you meet them.
  • Aiming to ask as soon as possible also eliminates the chance of numerous other students asking the same professor at the same time.
  • Make sure you show your recommender appreciation.
  • If the college you’re applying to requires a handwritten letter, then you’re the one responsible for handling the stamped letter and giving it to the professor to write in it.

Is your letter of recommendation request ignored? That might frequently happen, especially if students request the recommendation via email without following up with the professor. Hence, ensure you’re in direct contact with the recommender to avoid mishaps.

Who to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation?

Who to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation?

If you have the liberty of choosing who your recommender is, then there are a few things we encourage you to keep in mind:

  • A person who knows you on a level that’s a little better than professionally
  • Someone who has taught you in high school recently, as that makes them aware of your performance within the last 1-2 years
  • Core subjects are the most critical for college admissions, so choose a professor who teaches a required course.

However, remember that some colleges ask for recommendations from specific subjects’ professors. This is often related to the major you have chosen, simply to illustrate your proficiency in the related field.


According to NACAC, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, counselor and teacher recommendations are critical. They are more important if you’re considering their significance as compared to the essay section or overall interest.

Hence, don’t skip out on recommendation letters, and do not ask any teacher to write them for you. Be very deliberate about your choices, as it has the potential to boost your application status.

But how do you write a request for a letter of recommendation? As it’s pretty intimidating, and phrasing might make or break it, keep the email very simple. If you have discussed the letter in person, follow it up by email. However, if you haven’t contacted the teacher face-to-face, send a general, initial request.

Both are pretty similar in phrasing. Below is a general sample request for a letter of recommendation, including how to structure it:

  • Start with formalities (Dear Ms./Mr.)
  • Wish them well, then mention the name of the college or colleges you’re applying to
  • Ask them if they’re comfortable writing a recommendation letter for you
  • Mention the deadline
  • Attach your recent resume/CV
  • Finish it with your name, phone number, and email address

What if Your Recommendation Letters are Late?

What if Your Recommendation Letters are Late?

Fortunately, the deadlines for the recommendation letter are much more flexible than the rest of the application. In other words, as a student, you’re expected to fill out your portion of the application by the exact deadline. However, since the recommendations are not your responsibility after requesting them, the admission office I usually very considerate.

However, there is a difference between a late letter of recommendation and one that never arrives or is never sent. To elaborate, if your letter is late but arrives in time for the evaluation process, you’re safe. However, your overall evaluation might take a hit if the letter never comes. While it’s not the sole document that makes or breaks your admission process, every bit of information contributes to your overall application.

So what can you do if there is a late letter of recommendation? Remember that there are a few reasons that might happen:

  1. Your recommender forgot: give them a gentle nudge as a reminder.
  2. Your recommender does not want to do it: aim to find someone else to do it for you as soon as possible.
  3. Technical errors: sometimes, there are technical errors associated. For instance, the recommender might not know the process of submitting a recommendation letter online. However, the system might crash, which is a rare occasion. This simply means there might be other means that interfere with the process.

Can You Get Accepted Without a Letter of Recommendation?

Can You Get Accepted Without a Letter of Recommendation?

There are multiple colleges and universities across the world that do not require the submission of a letter of recommendation. That often involves them assessing the student’s abilities in other ways. However, several colleges also leave that section of the application as an optional one.

Below is a list of universities that do not require a letter of recommendation to get accepted:

  • Florida State University
  • Indiana University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • CUNY New York City College of Technology
  • Grand Canyon University
  • Arizona State University

However, keep in mind that getting accepted without a recommendation letter does not ease the process. Instead, the college will evaluate you on another basis. For example, they might conduct interviews, evaluate your grades with more scrutiny, check past experiences, and require some internships.

Moreover, having a stellar recommendation letter does not make or break your application. For example, receiving a recommendation letter from your biology teacher when applying for an engineering degree might not be substantial. Hence, all colleges consider recommendation letters without them being the most vital element of the application.

My recommender is not responding, so what can I do? In such situations, you should contact the admissions office and inform them about what is happening. They might give you advice or get in direct contact with the professor. Otherwise, attempt to notify the professor in person and tell them about the fast-approaching deadline.

What to Do If Your Recommender Never Sent a Letter?

What to Do If Your Recommender Never Sent a Letter?

Multiple different scenarios can occur, which are all anxiety-inducing for students. However, do not assume the worst-case scenario without contacting your professor about it.

The critical thing to remember is that professors are aware of the deadlines, at least most of the time. Moreover, they know that the application deadline does not often apply to the recommendation letter deadline. Hence, they feel they have more flexibility when it comes to the period in which they can submit the letter.

Regardless, they exercise all their power and know it is not a haunting responsibility. Many ask, “my recommender has never sent a letter. What do I do?” There aren’t many things you can do in such situations. However, follow the following steps to validate your concerns, simply to ensure that your fears are rational:

  • Contact the admissions office: this will allow you to verify whether your professor has, in fact, forgotten to send in the letter, or you’re simply contemplating the possibility of the person not writing it
  • Speak to the teacher: send out the following email after asking for the initial recommendation letter. Ask whether they have written it or not, and ve incredibly thoughtful and sincere in your email. If you get the chance, speak to them in person.
  • Solve any errors: if your professor cannot send the letter online, ask them to contact the admissions office for help.
  • Reach out to someone else: if you give up on your current recommender, it won’t harm you to reach out to someone who is much more reliable.
  • Last-minute recommendations: if you just asked your professor and the deadline is 2 days away, explain why you have asked at the very last minute. Keep your head high, and be sincere, kind, and optimistic.

How to Remind Recommenders About Your Letter and Submits on Time: 3 Tips

How to Remind Recommenders About Your Letter and Submits on Time: 3 Tips

Reminding the professor about a letter of recommendation is no subtle method. Hence, you are generally recommended to follow the below steps to ensure your professor delivers on time:

  1. Write a follow-up letter of recommendation. This simply ensures that the professor is aware of the deadline for the upcoming recommendation letter.
  2. Send in the follow-up email at least 10 days before the deadline. This gives the professor some margin to write it down, as a well-crafted piece will take no less than an hour to write.
  3. Ensure that you’re thanking your professor for the kind act they are doing. Subtly explain why you chose them to be the recommender.

Wrapping Things Up: My Recommender Has Never Sent a Letter, Now What?

At the end of the day, if your recommender does not send in their letter, you must follow through with action. The first thing to do is contact the admission office simply to ensure whether your suspicions are true or not. Secondly, contact the professor, and have an in-person conversation if possible. The last resort should be contacting another professor who could write the letter in place of the original recommender.

Picture of Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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