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I am likely losing a LOR due to some horrible circumstances for the writer. Setting aside the fact my problem pales in comparison, I do need to figure out how best to move forward.

This would have been by far my best letter. Someone I knew quite well that could also give detailed insight into both sides of my career transition. An excellent, passionate writer to boot. I was already on the fence about applying this cycle (contingent on my MCAT score in a few days), and I am trying to figure out how large of a blow this is to my application. Whoever replaces this letter will be solid, but this means the only person that can speak to both sides of my transition is me. Also affecting my judgement are my personal feelings for the writer and sadness about her situation.

As a non-trad, I have been trying to craft a narrative and have either done an excellent job or am way too neurotic about telling my story. From a committee perspective, how big of an effect is a drop from an excellent letter to a generically decent letter? Am I overplaying the importance of one letter just because it means so much to me or should I be looking at this as a significant problem?

Maybe tough questions to answer, but I'd love to hear some thoughts while I collect my own.
 
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Kpw101

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With a decent GPA/MCAT the blow to your application won't be as severe as you think provided you still have good letters of recommendation. Apply anyway. I'm sure your letter writer (my prayers got out to him/her) won't have wanted their circumstances to affect your application process.
 

NimbleNavigator

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I was already on the fence about applying this cycle (contingent on my MCAT score in a few days)

Wait... you submitted your primary already though right? Cause if not you should do that ASAP to at least one school so that you can get verified earlier. Decide later if you actually want to apply or not. You don't need your letters in to submit your primary.
 
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I am not an expert but I have often heard it said on here that LORs typically do not have much of an impact on your app one way or another.
 
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JesseVenturaMD
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Wait... you submitted your primary already though right? Cause if not you should do that ASAP to at least one school so that you can get verified earlier. Decide later if you actually want to apply or not. You don't need your letters in to submit your primary.
Fair question. I have not as I am wrapping up my last class. App gets submitted end of next week when that grade comes in. Thankfully, verification times go down a bit in August and based on last year I expect to be verified with letters uploaded before labor day. It's tighter than I would like to be sure, but i've had months to prepare and all of my secondaries are or will be pre-written so I can shoot back secondaries immediately.

Letter-wise, any thoughts @Goro @gyngyn ? Does my non-trad status place an out-size importance on a letter like this or is it a marginal dropoff to any standard positive letter?
 

gyngyn

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Fair question. I have not as I am wrapping up my last class. App gets submitted end of next week when that grade comes in. Thankfully, verification times go down a bit in August and based on last year I expect to be verified with letters uploaded before labor day. It's tighter than I would like to be sure, but i've had months to prepare and all of my secondaries are or will be pre-written so I can shoot back secondaries immediately.

Letter-wise, any thoughts @Goro @gyngyn ? Does my non-trad status place an out-size importance on a letter like this or is it a marginal dropoff to any standard positive letter?
Letters are mostly useless, bland endorsements. They very rarely make or break an application.
 
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gyngyn

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How do you explain this analysis by AMCAS where LoRs are rated higher than everything other than stats and interview?
Because it's all we have besides stats.
There is no interview data for most applicants, so that becomes very important for the few that get one!
 

gyngyn

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You just said they were useless? Maybe I misunderstood your original post.
Yes, the usual bland endorsements are expected. They rarely make or break an application, though.
Many are little more than "OP got a B+ in my rigorous course..." Those don't help.

After many years at this, I have found that, even the very worst candidates for medicine have 3 people who will tell us how perfect for medicine they are!

I once did a review of the candidates whose interviews revealed serious flaws in the ability to communicate and who were admitted to no other schools (in spite of stats at or above the 96th percentile). Universally, their letter writers gave no indication at all that the candidate lacked basic communication skills.
 
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Yes, the usual bland endorsements are expected. They rarely make or break an application, though.
Many are little more than "OP got a B+ in my rigorous course..." Those don't help.

After many years at this, I have found that, even the very worst candidates for medicine have 3 people who will tell us how perfect for medicine they are!
But I am sure that some people get strong personalized letters that really speak to their credit? From PIs/Bosses that have known them for years?
 
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JesseVenturaMD
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Yes, the usual bland endorsements are expected. They rarely make or break an application, though.
Many are little more than "OP got a B+ in my rigorous course..." Those don't help.
First, thanks to all for your time. Second, this is sort of my question. This would be downgrading from someone that knows me extremely well in many settings and can speak eloquently to my motivations, personality, and skillset to something more in the range of what you're referring to. Does a really good letter stand out from the crowd or is there really no such thing?
 

gyngyn

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First, thanks to all for your time. Second, this is sort of my question. This would be downgrading from someone that knows me extremely well in many settings and can speak eloquently to my motivations, personality, and skillset to something more in the range of what you're referring to. Does a really good letter stand out from the crowd or is there really no such thing?
We get lots of them. There is no way to know which ones are objective, though.
I got one from the applicant's mother the other day!
Don't fret. Make the rest of your ap as strong as possible.
 
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lexswift

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Yes, the usual bland endorsements are expected. They rarely make or break an application, though.
Many are little more than "OP got a B+ in my rigorous course..." Those don't help.

After many years at this, I have found that, even the very worst candidates for medicine have 3 people who will tell us how perfect for medicine they are!

I once did a review of the candidates whose interviews revealed serious flaws in the ability to communicate and who were admitted to no other schools (in spite of stats at or above the 96th percentile). Universally, their letter writers gave no indication at all that the candidate lacked basic communication skills.
One possibility is that they were super nervous on interview day and not how they usually they are right?
 

Bethany555

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From a member of the admissions committee at my school (n=1):

Pre-interview: Letter's are usually not a big factor in choosing who to interview. Basically everyone has positive letters.
Exceptions: 1) a bad letter (very rare) will sink you; 2) a letter from someone we know (faculty member whom you did research with, etc.) will give you a little extra consideration, if you are otherwise competitive

Post-interview: More important now.
1) If you rocked the interview and your letters are positive, it will confirm the positive impression.
2) If you botched the interview, your letters may be scrutinized more closely for red flags.

As long as you do well in the interview, I think it'll only be a minor blow.
 
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gyngyn

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How bad could it have been?
Bad.
We have people repeating rehearsed answers under their breath all day, people who look off to the side as if they were communicating with invisible interviewers, people staring at their shoes and mumbling...
 
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studentdocftw

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Bad.
We have people repeating rehearsed answers under their breath all day, people who look off to the side as if they were communicating with invisible interviewers, people staring at their shoes and mumbling...
That is actually depressing. And did you really get a LOR from a mom?! :wow: Tell me more interesting stories. :naughty:
 

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I've read LORs for candidates from Nobel laureates and US Senators. They didn't help.
 
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Goro

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Kary Mullis? No.
Bruce Beutler? Yes. Oh wait, Beutler already has his MD.

What if the candidate is a nobel laureate? Does that help? Or does it depend which category they won it in
 

gyngyn

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I've read LORs for candidates from Nobel laureates and US Senators. They didn't help.
I've gotten governors, former governors, sports figures, several Nobel Laureates, actors, directors, producers, musicians...
 
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LizzyM

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My all time favorite letter was from Tim Taylor, Yale's hockey coach. A gentleman and a terrific writer. May he rest in peace.
The worst had to be from an auntie who was also a VIP at the University. That just didn't feel right as there was no way it was unbiased.

A letter can provide some back story that the applicant himself can't write or chooses not to write. The Columbia post-bac is famous for these. I think that the advisors speak with the applicants and then put their stories into the letters. (e.g. Grandmother was the first practicing endocrinologist in Podunk and she influenced the applicant who summered with her in Maine -- far more detail than you'd put in your PS.)
 
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