I have an unrealistically good letter of recommendation and I’m a bit afraid to use it because of how unbelievable it is

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My latest letter writer showed me the LOR he submitted for me. This thing is over two pages long and paints me in such a ridiculous and over the top light that I have no idea what to do about it.

I was planning on submitting it to every program I apply to, until I saw it. Everything is all positive, of course, but he just says so many things about how fantastic I am that it seems like such an embellishment and when programs read it they’re all just going to roll their eyes and throw my application in the trash.

i also have reason to believe that my attending may have used a template that he uses for all students who ask him for a letter, with some slight variations. This is from speaking with other students on the same rotation as me now and those who were on that rotation in the past.

I have two questions basically:

1) should I submit a letter that is obviously strong but one that I know is a major exaggeration of who I am as a student? I want to benefit from a strong letter of course, but I don’t want programs to read this over the top letter and not take my application seriously because of it.

2) If I submit a letter of rec that is very very similar to letters of rev that other students have received from this same attending physician, will that hurt me at all?


Staff member
10+ Year Member
Sep 30, 2008
Status (Visible)
  1. Attending Physician
You are overthinking this. Of course you should submit the LOR.

It probably is a variation off of a form LOR that this attending uses frequently. This happens all the time, and even if it’s very obvious to anyone reading it, the bottom line is that this attending is vouching for you, and had only good things to say.
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Crazy Canuck
10+ Year Member
Jan 12, 2010
South of the 49th
Status (Visible)
  1. Attending Physician
LORs are tricky anyways, they follow one of 3 recipes.

You're a terrible student - you ask me for a LOR, I tell you to look elsewhere but you insist so I write one. When you read it, you'll be shocked to see it's still a "good" LOR. You honestly can't trash someone in a LOR. So you write "Dr. X was a student from school X, they mostly came on time, they participated". That's a damning LOR.

You're an average student. Your LOR is going to say all sorts of positive things that sound great, you read, you contributed, etc.

You're an above average/great student. You get the LOR you're describing. It sounds over the top and ridiculous, but in all honesty we are just communicating that you do a great job. You manage patients like you're already a resident. You bring teaching points to rounds. I would trust you to care for me, etc etc. Is it all true? Probably not - but you did a good job and this is how we can say it.

So definitely use it, we see all sorts of mediocre to great letters. You'll never find a letter that says Dr. X was lazy, showed up late, and didn't care. When Dr. X doesn't match, some yahoo tells him about the letter and I get sued for slander and libel it just isn't worth it.
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