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An Unusual Situation <need advice.


marvelboy

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Here's the situation: I applied to University of ___ English PhD program in December. I make sure I turn in everything I need: GRE scores, transcripts, recommendations, etc. I periodically check the website to check that everything is complete. The website confirms the University has received everything and is ready for review by the English department. 2 months pass. I check the website 2 weeks ago and discover that the English department has sent back my file to the Graduate school because it is incomplete. I e-mail the department's secretary from my work e-mail (which I do not have access to on weekends) on a Tuesday and inquiry what is wrong. No response. I e-mail another person in the department on a Wednesday. No response. I e-mail the secretary again on Thursday. On Friday afternoon, my Inbox received a response from the secretary. He now says that one of the recommendations is incomplete and asks if I can get another recommendation to him by Monday morning (Valentine's Day). I read this ON Monday morning because I do not have access to my work e-mail (which is my mistake). However, I felt outraged that they incorrectly stated my application was incomplete and, right when the department is in the first round of reviewing applications, they request yet another recommendation and provide a very short time period for me to get one. I write a STRONGLY worded e-mail to the secretary (no cuss words or inapparopriate language but I conveyed I was pissed off) and state that I cannot get another rec in the time allotted and believe it is unfair for such a request to be fulfilled given the circumstances. He immediately e-mails me back apologizing for the situation, taking "half" the blame for the situation, and assures me that my application will be pushed through to the second round of evaluations. On the website, my status is changed from incomplete to pending.

My question is how can I trust this guy's word? It's very clear SOMEbody messed up in not informing me in time that my app was incomplete. There's no way I could've known since a.) the recommendation was not personally sent by me and b.) the recommender clearly thought he sent in a complete recommendation. And since the website said "complete" for 2 months, I feel I have a legitimate excude for complaint and think that it is most likely the secretary's fault for screwing up. If so, he could easily just SAY he passed on my app when really no one is looking at it. Also, how will the committee know the circumstances of my situation? Do I try to contact other people in the department or Graduate office about this?

I apologize if this sounds vaguely whiney but this is my dream school and felt I had a very good chance of getting accepted. Plus, I only applied to two other schools so if this one is eliminated due to an error beyond my control, I only have two chances left to get into the grad program of my choice.

Thanks for reading and hopefully your replies!

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I understand your frustration at the mishandling of your application. That said, since you are in a position of wanting something from the school (admittance), and they are in a position to pick among many people, I think you should be as gracious as possible. Since it sounds like you may have already burned a bridge with the secretary, I don't know what more you can do. I suppose you could try to get the letter that's missing and send it by next-day mail or FedEx, with a note saying that you hope it can be added to your file.

Keep in mind that if you are admitted, the person you just sent this e-mail to will be a member of the department office, who you will see on a regular basis for the next several years. You don't want to start off on the wrong foot!

Good luck!

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I would try to get in contact with your recommender to get them to complete the rec. as soon as possible. I'm not saying you did anything wrong, but it's generally your responsibility to confirm that your application is complete, not the school's. Even if the website says your file is complete, it's always best to check with the department to make doubly sure you're in the clear; grad school records and department records don't always match. I didn't know this the first time I applied and found out the hard way. That being said, it does seem like there may have been some error on the department's end and it seems to me if you get your LOR in soon you will still have a fair chance. If they were'nt impressed by what they had seen already, they wouldn't bother to take the time to get more information.

Good luck!

Edited by books
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The same thing happened to me except that after the secretary's promise I received two additional emails by the graduate studies office stating that they could not review my application because it was incomplete. After playing email tag with the graduate studies office and receiving unsatisfactory answers, I was livid and decided to write a strongly worded email to the dean of graduate studies. The dean promptly returned my email (30 minutes later) and by the end of the day they mysteriously found all my materials and I was issued an apology by both the dean and the secretary. To be honest, I assume that the bridge is burned at that school and they hate me but I was so frustrated I didn't care. I spent a lot of money applying to their program and a lot of time verifying that my documents were received. I think I deserve better than to be given the run around!

Its not fair that they misled you for several months but I agree with everyone else that you should try to get this corrected asap. Since this is your dream school I would probably send a nicely worded email to the secretary to thank her/ remind her of that promise.

Anyway, I'll keep my fingers crossed for you since this is your dream school....

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In the end it doesn't really matter whose fault it is. All that matters is that your file gets passed to the adcom for review. I would suggest asking your recommender get in touch with the school to clarify what part of the letter was "incomplete" and to have it settled to everyone's satisfaction. It shouldn't take long, I assume the letter was written and maybe some standard form was not filled out correctly or some such. If the recommender is willing to cooperate, this could be resolved in a matter of days.

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