LORs, AMCAS, and Interfolio

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Mar 30, 2011
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First off, I do not have a pre-health committee so all letters are individual. Secondly, I will not be applying this cycle, but next, so I still have plenty of time to gather letters. So here are my questions regarding LOR's, Interfolio, and AMCAS:

1) Does anyone think there is a benefit in LOR writers to make letters school specific? Like is it beneficial to make my top choice specific and then like 1 or 2 other realistic schools I really like school specific also? I realize AMCAS only has 10 slots, so thats where Q3 & Q4 come in.

2) How does interfolio benefit me besides from being able to gather letters early and ensure they are signed?

3) If some of my recommenders are willing to write a few school specific letters, can I use interfolio to make all letters to say Harvard a "packet" in AMCAS basically tricking it so I could have 3 school specific packets and then a generic packet with the standard 2 science and 1 other professor, and then use the other 6 AMCAS slots for other letters that schools may like to have such as a PI's, shadowed doctor, or lab coordinator I TA'ed for? If I can do this, is it easy to distinguish which packet is which in AMCAS so I do not send the Harvard packet to some other school?

4) If Q3 is not allowed, can I ask two of my core letter writers to send in their letters to my pre-health advisor (also my upper div bio prof) and have her make it a committee letter even though my school does not automatically do committee letters? That way I could have 3 school specific committee letters, a general committee letter, and then 6 slots for additional letters still. I am sure my letter writers would be more than happy to do this, but is is allowed/does it work this way?

I realize most schools do not want 10 letters, but being able to have 3 core letters and then up to 6 additional letters to choose from I think would be beneficial, that was I could send research heavy institutions PI LORs and primary care heavy institutions other types of letters.

Any other advice you have would also be great.

Thanks in advance!

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1. No. I mean, unless you can get so many good letter writers that you can send out "individualized" letters to schools you apply to. Most people though aren't in that position and just get 3-5 letters that are general letters - i.e. why this student would make a good physician or whatever. Don't individualize the letters to schools.

2. That is the benefit - they can hold the letters for you if you finish classes with a certain prof way before the app cycle.

3. Interfolio would probably know that better than people here would. Keep in mind that most schools only let you send 5-6 letters max.

4. Generally, I think... no.

IMO you're overthinking the whole LOR thing. Just get some general, quality letters from people who know you best and don't try to get your letter writers to mention specific schools. You can demonstrate your fit for a school through all the other portions of your application. All you need from LOR's is a good character reference. KISS.
1) Thats the thing, I can know I have 10 people lined up to write me excellent LORs. I'm at a small LAC which allows me to get to know my professors very well and in different capacities and then I also have other doctors, PI's, and volunteer coordinators that all know me very well.

2) I do not see how holding letters is a benefit. Many schools do not accept letters over a year old so I would have to have the professor re-date the thing anyways and then send it in, so having interfolio does me no good if all they are doing is holding it - also being at a LAC allows me to see my letter writers basically on a daily basis so I know they would send them in in May as many of them have already written letters for me and they seem to be able to tweak them and get them out within a week for the most part.

3) I know thats the case, but for some schools, like OHSU my instate school, will take as many as I can send them - not that I would send all 10 though.

4) Interesting, it seems like my pre-med advisor should be allowed to do a committee letter even though its not something our school normally does. How would a med school know if my school does or does not do committee letters normally?
I'd just like to point out a common misconception with regards to 5+ LORs. One would like to think "more letters = more support, definite advantage." However, I've been told that (unfortunately) many admissions officers simply don't have the time to read through 6 or 7 letters, but instead maybe the top three.

What this means to you is you might have three of your best letters included in your packet, but since they are on the bottom of your pile they will go unread and instead be replaced by perhaps less supportive letters that conveniently lie on the top of your stack.

So, if it is the case that you have 9 outstanding letters, then by all means include them. However, if you suspect that even one will be less-than-magnificent do not include it in the pile.