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I have reason to believe I have a bad LOR - but my application has been submitted. What can I do?


Full Member
2+ Year Member
Apr 10, 2019
  1. Pre-Medical
I made the terrible decision of asking my letter writers if they would "write me a letter", not if they would "write me a good letter" because I assumed this was assumed. Big mistake which I was not aware of at the time. In hindsight, one of my letter writers (prof I did research under) said he'd write me a letter "if necessary," and he's generally a hardass, but at the time I didn't think anything of it as he did agree to write the letter and I'd done well in his lab. Fast forward to now and his letter is submitted at all 28 schools I applied to and I cannot remove it even though I get the sense due to what he said and his personality that the letter was not a positive one. I applied to 15 more schools without his letter after this realization, but is there anything else I can do? I can't change letters on the 28 I applied to. Should I not even bother submitting my secondaries to those schools? If I have to reapply, and a school rejected me because of this letter, will they have on file that someone wrote me a bad letter last cycle and auto reject me again? Any advice would be appreciated, thanks in advance.


Full Member
2+ Year Member
Mar 14, 2019
  1. Pre-Medical
you have no idea what the letter says, it may simply be like the vast majority of letters that applicants get and it will be fine. I think you should go forward
This^^^^^. We all suffer from a little OCD when it comes to these applications, but it is counterproductive to focus on something you can't control after the fact. The odds are, unless the professor is a total dick, that he would absolutely not write you a bad letter after you did good work for him, no matter how much of a hardass he is. You'll know for sure if and when you receive IIs from some of those 28 schools.

On the off chance that you are correct, however, sure, if a school rejects you because of a bad letter they will not magically forget that in future cycles, so you'll have to write those schools off, but I am pretty sure you will not have to worry about this.
May 19, 2020
  1. Non-Student
Honestly, in organizing letter packets and putting together committee letters, I see more "bad letters" from faculty who think they're writing "good letters" than from hardasses.

The latter write letters that are filled with superlatives, but lack evidence and examples to back up what they're saying about the student, and don't directly give evidence for the characteristics that medical schools are looking for. They can also be really short. A letter that just says "Eigen is awesome, you should admit them" may be described as a very positive letter, but it will not be a good one.

On the other hand, you have faculty who can be hard to please and exacting, and they may write letters that are less filled with superlatives but give more concrete and direct appraisals of your skill in different areas. And these may not be as overwhelmingly positive, but they can be a lot better.

Don't overthink things too much, especially at this stage. Move on, and if need be, re-evaluate next cycle when you decide what letter writers you keep and what you don't. Follow the always pertinent advice from the clip below:

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