Asking schools to ignore one letter in favor of another?

May 22, 2020
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Hey y'all I have an interesting situation that I was hoping you could offer advice on. When it came to getting letters of rec, I was in a pretty great position in that I had an abundance of people who would write them for me, and I actually had to narrow it down.

However there is one professor I am extremely close with (let's call him Tim), I took his class freshman year and we had a great relationship that has extended to use still staying in contact. He was one of my first choices to write a letter, however he was on a study abroad program and was one of the first people in my state (and possibly the country to contract COVID-19). He has recovered now and is healthy, however he was really going through it and I did not want to ask him to take the time to write a letter of rec while he was on (what he said felt like) his deathbed.

He has just gotten back to me, and said that he can get a letter to me in the next couple of days. To be clear, I had 5 other letter writers that know me well for multiple years that I am sure wrote glowing letters, so it's not like I need Tim's letter. However, Tim and I are extremely close (first name basis), he is an amazing writer and I feel like his letter would be a cut above the rest.

I have already submitted my letters to schools, usually 3-5, and I called AMCAS and they said there is no way to "unsend" a letter. I know many schools have a maximum letter requirement, and I feel like I may exceed it. To clarify, I have already sent 5 letters to most schools, this would represent the 6th letter. Is there anything I can do in this situation?

Edit: just for clarification, my school does not offer a committee letter so subsequently I had to prepare individual letters.
 
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gyngyn

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I have already submitted my letters to schools, usually 3-5, and I called AMCAS and they said there is no way to "unsend" a letter. I know many schools have a maximum letter requirement, and I feel like I may exceed it. To clarify, I have already sent 5 letters to most schools, this would represent the 6th letter. Is there anything I can do in this situation?
Do not exceed the maximum number of letters! It is one of the ways to tell if an applicant is interested in a school...they read the instructions and follow them.
 
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May 22, 2020
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Do not exceed the maximum number of letters! It is one of the ways to tell if an applicant is interested in a school...they read the instructions and follow them.
This is my problem exactly, I know it looks bad to exceed the letter max - subsequently would I be able to email the school and ask them to disregard? There is no way to do it from my end, as it is out of my control after they have been sent.
 
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gyngyn

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This is my problem exactly, I know it looks bad to exceed the letter max - subsequently would I be able to email the school and ask them to disregard? There is no way to do it from my end, as it is out of my control after they have been sent.
Once submitted, we are responsible for evaluating the content. You cannot ask us not to read a submitted letter (at least not without looking goofy)!
 
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May 22, 2020
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@gyngyn Based on my research, it looks like there has been past cases of students with bad letters of recommendation. I think all my letters are good, I just think that this one will be a step above the rest. Jim is a close friend to me, the other students and I that had him often still hang out or go to movies together (he is the professor of a small undergraduate seminar.)

I guess a better question is, if I explain the situation to the admissions team via email, do you think they would be understanding fo the situation and COVID and let me submit an extra letter? For example, Baylor just told me it would be okay (only school to have people available to answer the phone lol), however I am uncertain about other schools.

At the end of the day, I don't think this is going to make or break my application - I just know that anything positive thing could be what helps get that A, and I want everything working in my favor.
 

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@gyngyn Based on my research, it looks like there has been past cases of students with bad letters of recommendation. I think all my letters are good, I just think that this one will be a step above the rest. Jim is a close friend to me, the other students and I that had him often still hang out or go to movies together (he is the professor of a small undergraduate seminar.)

I guess a better question is, if I explain the situation to the admissions team via email, do you think they would be understanding fo the situation and COVID and let me submit an extra letter? For example, Baylor just told me it would be okay (only school to have people available to answer the phone lol), however I am uncertain about other schools.

At the end of the day, I don't think this is going to make or break my application - I just know that anything positive thing could be what helps get that A, and I want everything working in my favor.
You are telegraphing that you are either a special snowflake who believes the rules don't apply to you, or that you can't follow simple instructions.
 
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gyngyn

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@gyngyn

I guess a better question is, if I explain the situation to the admissions team via email, do you think they would be understanding fo the situation and COVID and let me submit an extra letter? For example, Baylor just told me it would be okay (only school to have people available to answer the phone lol), however I am uncertain about other schools.

At the end of the day, I don't think this is going to make or break my application - I just know that anything positive thing could be what helps get that A, and I want everything working in my favor.
This not likely to help and it can hurt. Downtrodden staff personnel will agree to requests just to get the applicant to move on.
If there is an excess of letters, each AdCom member will have their own opinion of the failure to follow instructions
 
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May 22, 2020
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You are telegraphing that you are either a special snowflake who believes the rules don't apply to you, or that you can't follow simple instructions.
Given many schools have been releasing updates, and given I stress the impact that my friend not only had COVID but was severely affected by it, do you think they would still have that viewpoint?
This not likely to help and it can hurt. Downtrodden staff personnel will agree to requests just to get the applicant to move on.
If there is an excess of letters, each AdCom member will have their own opinion of the failure to follow instructions
So what you're saying is, even if I receive a response from the admissions team that it will not affect my application in a negative way, it still possibly could?
 

gyngyn

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So what you're saying is, even if I receive a response from the admissions team that it will not affect my application in a negative way, it still possibly could?
No staff person can tell you how any individual committee member will perceive a deviation in protocol. Your application may go through several phases and be evaluated by folks with different opinions.
There are only so many things in your control. Following the rules is going to be the safest choice.
 
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Goro

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Given many schools have been releasing updates, and given I stress the impact that my friend not only had COVID but was severely affected by it, do you think they would still have that viewpoint?

So what you're saying is, even if I receive a response from the admissions team that it will not affect my application in a negative way, it still possibly could?
Since you're dying to do this and you're not really interested in taking our advice, go ahead and send the LOR, then report back at the end of the cycle and tell us how things went.
 
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MyOdyssey

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This not likely to help and it can hurt. Downtrodden staff personnel will agree to requests just to get the applicant to move on.
If there is an excess of letters, each AdCom member will have their own opinion of the failure to follow instructions

What if the undergrad provides a committee letter and attaches individual letters To the committee letter? Is it the applicant‘s job to make sure the right number and types are attached even though the applicant doesn’t get to put that package together (and indeed never sees either the committee letter or the individual recommendation letters)? @Goro
 

gyngyn

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What if the undergrad provides a committee letter and attaches individual letters To the committee letter? Is it the applicant‘s job to make sure the right number and types are attached even though the applicant doesn’t get to put that package together (and indeed never sees either the committee letter or the individual recommendation letters)? @Goro
No. A committee letter is preferred and sufficient (except in Utah).
 
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gonnif

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What if the undergrad provides a committee letter and attaches individual letters To the committee letter? Is it the applicant‘s job to make sure the right number and types are attached even though the applicant doesn’t get to put that package together (and indeed never sees either the committee letter or the individual recommendation letters)? @Goro

Individual letter requirements apply only if you are submitting individual letters; these requirements are set by the medical school
Committee letter requirements are set by the undergraduate school. if a medical school accepts a committee letter, they will accept what is sent. There is no requirement that a committee send ANY attached letters
 
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gonnif

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If I may add a word here

NO!

Even though @gyngyn has tried to nicely explain multiple times that doing so could risk being seen as if your head is so far up in there that they will be unsure if you a GI specialist or a neurosurgeon. Not only would exceeding the maximum number of letters already be a negative, any letter you write explaining your special circumstance could be a big red flag. If I saw an explanation from an applicant for whatever special circumstances they have to please ignore professor X and instead here is a letter from Professor Y, I would immediately read professor X letter and see if was an attempt to deflect a negative eval.
 
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May 22, 2020
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@gyngyn @Goro @gonnif Thank you for y'alls advice. I spent some time combing through MSAR, and it looks like I am only at the limit for about half the schools. For most of the schools - including my tops ones - I am still well within the limit, so I will submit to those and not try to cause any special circumstances with the others.
 
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frightenedrabbit

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Do not exceed the maximum number of letters! It is one of the ways to tell if an applicant is interested in a school...they read the instructions and follow them.

If we added an additional letter to the prehealth committee one, is this going to look bad? I was interpreting the committee one as "one" letter so I sent my research one individually because I received it after my committee finished theirs. My advisors told me to add it separately since I had pubs under this person and that it would not be a great look not to have one.

Did the committee letter count as multiple individual letters since they attach the individual ones that we submitted to the committee? I have no problem with schools not reading it all, just worried that I violated those maximums since my committee one attached 4 individual ones to their committee recommendation and I added 1 individual.

Edit: Just saw @gonnif 's post about requirements only applying to individual letters. Does the same go for letter "maximums"?
 

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If we added an additional letter to the prehealth committee one, is this going to look bad? I was interpreting the committee one as "one" letter so I sent my research one individually because I received it after my committee finished theirs. My advisors told me to add it separately since I had pubs under this person and that it would not be a great look not to have one.

Did the committee letter count as multiple individual letters since they attach the individual ones that we submitted to the committee? I have no problem with schools not reading it all, just worried that I violated those maximums since my committee one attached 4 individual ones to their committee recommendation and I added 1 individual.

Edit: Just saw @gonnif 's post about requirements only applying to individual letters. Does the same go for letter "maximums"?
More is not better.
 
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gyngyn

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If we added an additional letter to the prehealth committee one, is this going to look bad? I was interpreting the committee one as "one" letter so I sent my research one individually because I received it after my committee finished theirs. My advisors told me to add it separately since I had pubs under this person and that it would not be a great look not to have one.

Did the committee letter count as multiple individual letters since they attach the individual ones that we submitted to the committee? I have no problem with schools not reading it all, just worried that I violated those maximums since my committee one attached 4 individual ones to their committee recommendation and I added 1 individual.

Edit: Just saw @gonnif 's post about requirements only applying to individual letters. Does the same go for letter "maximums"?
The MSAR will describe the requirements for each school. Most schools will indicate that a committee letter is sufficient, preferred and not in excess of requirements. Some will emphasize not to send additional letters. The information for how many and which type is only for those without a committee letter. The only school that does not prefer a committee letter is Utah (heaven only knows why).
 
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gonnif

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If we added an additional letter to the prehealth committee one, is this going to look bad? I was interpreting the committee one as "one" letter so I sent my research one individually because I received it after my committee finished theirs. My advisors told me to add it separately since I had pubs under this person and that it would not be a great look not to have one.

Did the committee letter count as multiple individual letters since they attach the individual ones that we submitted to the committee? I have no problem with schools not reading it all, just worried that I violated those maximums since my committee one attached 4 individual ones to their committee recommendation and I added 1 individual.

Edit: Just saw @gonnif 's post about requirements only applying to individual letters. Does the same go for letter "maximums"?
Ok, so which requirement are you trying to fill and how is a school to know that

A) Committee letter requirement? The staff may mark the committee letter as fulfilling the requirements in which case the additional letter may or may not be part of the evaluator's file
B) Individual letter requirement? The staff person may see the SINGLE committee letter (no matter how many letters are attached) and the SINGLE individual letter so now you have TWO letters on file. If the school has a minimum of THREE letters, you havent fulfilled it and they may weight for the additional letter.
 
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frightenedrabbit

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The MSAR will describe the requirements for each school. Most schools will indicate that a committee letter is sufficient, preferred and not in excess of requirements. Some will emphasize not to send additional letters. The information for how many and which type is only for those without a committee letter.

I checked each of their sites and none of my schools specified not to send additional, but a handful have a maximum limit of 3, 4, or 5 individual letters. Unfortunately I already sent both 1 committee (which my committee attached 4 letters to) + 1 added individual PI one to them. I know, my fault completely, but am wondering how bad it'll look / if it's blatantly ignoring rules if the committee attachments count towards the maximums. But I understand now that it specifically applies for those without the committee one.

Ok, so which requirement are you trying to fill

The staff person may see the SINGLE committee letter (no matter how many letters are attached) and the SINGLE individual letter so now you have TWO letters on file. If the school has a minimum of THREE letters, you havent fulfilled it and they may weight for the additional letter.

Committee. It only had professor LoRs in it and the committee who evaluated me told me afterwards to try to get a PI one to send separately to schools, alongside their committee evaluation. But I should know better than to listen to advisors by now so I see now this was probably a mistake lol.

Luckily, I have been marked complete and under review for all the schools and most allowed me to specifically check off that I was submitting a committee LoR in the portal.
 

gonnif

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I checked each of their sites and none of my schools specified not to send additional, but a handful have a maximum limit of 3, 4, or 5 individual letters. Unfortunately I already sent both 1 committee (which my committee attached 4 letters to) + 1 added individual PI one to them. I know, my fault completely, but am wondering how bad it'll look / if it's blatantly ignoring rules if the committee attachments count towards the maximums. But I understand now that it specifically applies for those without the committee one.



Committee. It only had professor LoRs in it and the committee who evaluated me told me afterwards to try to get a PI one to send separately to schools, alongside their committee evaluation. But I should know better than to listen to advisors by now so I see now this was probably a mistake lol.

Luckily, I have been marked complete and under review for all the schools and most allowed me to specifically check off that I was submitting a committee LoR in the portal.
Lets clarify something . A committee letter and attached letters are a SINGLE LETTER. No matter how many letters are attached, that is wholly irrelevant.
 
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Individual letter requirements apply only if you are submitting individual letters; these requirements are set by the medical school
Committee letter requirements are set by the undergraduate school. if a medical school accepts a committee letter, they will accept what is sent. There is no requirement that a committee send ANY attached letters
My school only puts teacher recs in their committee letter will it be acceptable to add a rec from my PI and a non clinical rec to send to schools or is it not needed?
 

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