Mediocre Letters - How Screwed Am I?

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IWishICouldPhysics

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Hey y'all! I had a situation recently where my sole science professor letter writer can no longer write my rec letter, so I've had to go with a last-minute backup professor. This professor doesn't know me nearly as well, but they're very kind and said they'd help me....it'll probably be generic/somewhat good (they asked for a page summary on my activities, so it's might be some kind of ghostwritten letter?) but nothing stellar, so I have to hope it'll do for the science LoR requirement (since I'm getting a committee letter). I'm honestly just grateful someone agreed since this is so last-minute.

Anyway, with all the talk I've seen about rec letters and their importance, I'm curious: how badly will one to two mediocre/nice but not crazy good rec letters kill your app? Does it significantly harm your application? Anything I should change given the situation? My other letters should be solid.

The situation is just difficult all around, and it's got me more worked up than I've ever been, so I'd love to hear the thoughts/advice from admissions officers and anyone else who can chime in :)

Edited to change wording*

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Almost all pre-med LoE's are neutral. They neither add nor detract from the application.
Thank you so much for the speedy response :)

This helps a lot to know, thank you! The situation isn't great, but I feel more at ease now to hear that.
 
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There's not much you can do, but that's why we tell everyone to plan your references early (like after fall semester ends).
I've had my references planned out since last summer, and I asked them right after Thanksgiving break; unfortunately, my original professor had to take leave due to personal concerns, and the other science professor I asked at the start of the semester ghosted me (and apparently* every other student they promised to write for)

It seems even the best planning is no match for life sometimes, but like you said, not much I can do.
 
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just piggybacking on what has already been said here but as long as your letters don’t actively speak against you I don’t think it will tank your app. That’s also been my experience since I know a few of mine were very neutral (I’m a non-trad and had to email random professors begging for a letter). Letters also don’t need to be in until your secondary is, so you’ve got a few months still if you feel like you need to ask other profs.
 
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just piggybacking on what has already been said here but as long as your letters don’t actively speak against you I don’t think it will tank your app. That’s also been my experience since I know a few of mine were very neutral (I’m a non-trad and had to email random professors begging for a letter). Letters also don’t need to be in until your secondary is, so you’ve got a few months still if you feel like you need to ask other profs.
Thank you so much for your input :) I was a little worried because I'm trad, so my job is quite literally to be a student (among 3 other jobs lol), but that helps me to hear :)

I wanted them in by mid-May at the latest since I'm in Texas and we have a committee letter system, which god knows how long that will take especially if I want to submit early, but I'll keep asking around just in case. Thanks again!
 
Thank you so much for your input :) I was a little worried because I'm trad, so my job is quite literally to be a student (among 3 other jobs lol), but that helps me to hear :)

I wanted them in by mid-May at the latest since I'm in Texas and we have a committee letter system, which god knows how long that will take especially if I want to submit early, but I'll keep asking around just in case. Thanks again!
yeah idk anything about Texas or TMDSAS so take my advice with a grain of salt as it relates to all that lol
 
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Almost all pre-med LoE's are neutral. They neither add nor detract from the application.
I thought most were positive and neutral/negative comments were a red flag, at least in the US. I understand EU LoRs are different.
 
I thought most were positive and neutral/negative comments were a red flag, at least in the US. I understand EU LoRs are different.
The contents of the letter are not neutral, but the impact of letters in general is neutral/minimal.
 
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The contents of the letter are not neutral, but the impact of letters in general is neutral/minimal.
What constitutes a generic rec letter anyway? How do y'all even assess that? I'm honestly not sure what that means.

Given that the backup professor had me write a page about my most important ECs and how they contribute to why I want to be a doctor, assuming he incorporates them, would it still be generic? Should I try and explain the situation, since I did everything "right" to get strong letters (according to SDN doctrine) and still had this happen?

Same question for @gyngyn and @Goro if they'd be kind enough to respond (sorry to bombard y'all!!)
 
What constitutes a generic rec letter anyway? How do y'all even assess that? I'm honestly not sure what that means.

Given that the backup professor had me write a page about my most important ECs and how they contribute to why I want to be a doctor, assuming he incorporates them, would it still be generic? Should I try and explain the situation, since I did everything "right" to get strong letters (according to SDN doctrine) and still had this happen?

Same question for @gyngyn and @Goro if they'd be kind enough to respond (sorry to bombard y'all!!)
No, definitely do not do that.

Most letters contain what you mentioned already. That is why letters generally do not weigh heavily on an app. You can direct the professor to the AAMC guidelines if you would like:

 
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What constitutes a generic rec letter anyway? How do y'all even assess that? I'm honestly not sure what that means.

Given that the backup professor had me write a page about my most important ECs and how they contribute to why I want to be a doctor, assuming he incorporates them, would it still be generic? Should I try and explain the situation, since I did everything "right" to get strong letters (according to SDN doctrine) and still had this happen?

Same question for @gyngyn and @Goro if they'd be kind enough to respond (sorry to bombard y'all!!)
5% of LORs are great.
Bad LORs are rare.
>90% of LORs read the same.
 
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It’s nothing to worry about. As the wise Goro stated above, a few letters are so good or so negative that we take notice; the vast majority are bland vaguely positive letters that change nothing about how we see you.
 
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Letters are like personal statements. They try to impress, but unless it's for a significant award or scholarship, it satisfies our needs in the process. I show in the SJT workshop a summary from a review that confirms there is no predictive validity for letters despite assurances you will be the best-ever professional.
 
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I thought most were positive and neutral/negative comments were a red flag, at least in the US.
They are neutral with regard to the outcome of the application.
They all say the usual peppy things, thus they have no effect. I very rarely see something so negative that it tanks an application (less than one in a thousand). Extremely effective letters that have a modest effect on the outcome are also quite uncommon.
 
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