*~*~*~*Official Letters of Recommendation Questions Thread 2014-2015*~*~*~*

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  1. Ismet

    Ismet PGY-fun!
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    This thread is for 2015 applicants (those who will be entering medical school in 2015) to ask questions about letters of recommendation.

    Any separate threads in Pre-Allo dealing with this topic will be merged into this thread.

    Before asking a question, PLEASE READ THE FAQ, both here in this thread AND on the AMCAS website! It is quite possible that your question will have already been answered. If you think that you have a different take on a question in the FAQ, acknowledge this in your question; everyone in pre-allo will be much more likely to help you out if they think you've done due diligence.

    For your reference, last year's thread is available here.

    Also, each thread has a search function. Please use it before asking your question by clicking the "Search this Thread" button near the top of the page.

    This thread is brought to you by the Pre-Allopathic Volunteer Staff. Ask away, and good luck!!


    Frequently Asked Questions

    1. What kinds of letters do I need to apply to medical school?
    For most schools, you need a MINIMUM of two letters from science professors, and 1 letter from a non-science professor. If you have done research, a letter from your PI is also recommended, especially at research-intensive schools. (If you know of any exceptions to this rule, feel free to post in this thread with citations and I will add them). Other letters that may be helpful: a letter from an employer who knows your skills well, a letter from a physician you shadowed/worked with who knows your skills well, a letter from a volunteer coordinator who knows your skills well. The key is that the letters be exceptional. A detailed letter that can give clear examples of why you are an excellent candidate for medical school will generally trump a tepid letter from a famous person. Every school is different. Please check each school's individual letter requirements by visiting their website. A copy of an XLS spreadsheet from 2010 is attached to this post. The accuracy of this spreadsheet is unknown so be sure to check individual school websites! Keep in mind that a committee letter usually overrides any specific school requirements listed on the spreadsheet.
    1a. But doesn't every school have different letter requirements?
    Yes, they do. Do your homework, buy an MSAR (I hear from this thread that the way to go is to buy online access because the hard copy is not as useful: http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=811023), and look at the school websites. Also, AMCAS has a link to every school; use it and figure out what you need for the schools you're applying to. https://www.aamc.org/students/applyi...ating_schools/ You can get a rough idea from the attached XLS spreadsheet but check school websites to confirm.
    1b. But do I really really have to get X type of letter? (2 non-science, 1 science, a letter from my PI)
    The short answer: yes. The long answer: Maybe...it depends on the school. No one on SDN can answer this for you. But the general rule in medical school admissions is do what you are told. Get the two science letters. If you can't...call the schools you're applying to and see if they will make an exception. But be aware that the answer may be no.
    2. I am a non-traditional student and have been out of school for awhile. Can I get around the letter requirements?
    The simple answer is probably no. If you are a non-traditional student, this doesn't mean that you have an easier time getting into medical school; the same hoops still need to be jumped through. Being out of school for awhile is likely a problem in itself; schools want to see recent evidence that you can handle the coursework necessary to get through medical school. Take some classes, form relationships, and get the letters you need to. If you must, you can contact each school individually to see if they would be ok with you submitting alternate letters, but be aware that the answer may be "no".
    3. My school has a medical school admissions committee, and they produce a committee letter. But the letter won't be released until really LATE! (August, September, October). Can I just skip the committee and collect my own letters?
    The general wisdom on this topic is that if your school has a committee, USE IT! If you don't, you will be asked why and will need a very good reason. You are circumventing the committee at your own risk.

    4. How/when can I submit letters of req to AMCAS?
    Once the application opens in May, you may begin submitting letters to AMCAS. Before you can mail a letter in, you must "create' the letter in your AMCAS application. This involves you telling AMCAS who the letter writer is and naming the letter in AMCAS. AMCAS will then give this letter an ID number. It is important for you to give your letter writer both your AMCAS ID number and the Letter ID number to avoid any snafus with lost letters. Your letter writer can then mail the letter into AMCAS with these two pieces of information, and the letter will be uploaded to your file and will be available to assign to any school you wish. I am told that while AMCAS will accept documents without your AMCAS ID on them, you MUST have the Letter ID or AMCAS will not accept it. I don't have firsthand knowledge of whether or not this is true.

    You can create and submit letters at any time, including after you submit your application and after you are verified. This is one of the few parts of the application you can edit after submission.
    5. Do I have to know which letters are going to which school when I first submit my AMCAS application?
    NO! You can submit your application without assigning letters. Again, this is one of the few parts of the application that can be altered later. HOWEVER, once you assign a letter to a school, you CANNOT un-assign it. If the letter is present in AMCAS, and you assign it to a school, it WILL go to that school. However, if you "create" the letter in AMCAS, assign it to a school, but your letter writer never sends the letter in, you can notify AMCAS (and the school, through the AMCAS application) that the letter will no longer be sent.

    6. How many schools use the AMCAS Letter service?
    This year, it looks like all but 4 schools that participate in AMCAS are participating in the letter service. Those non-participating schools are:
    Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center School of Medicinein Shreveport
    Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans
    Universidad Central Del Caribe
    University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine.

    The participating schools can be found here: https://www.aamc.org/students/applyi...ating_schools/

    7. Is it in my best interest to have my letter writers write different letters for each school?
    Probably not. AMCAS can only hold a maximum of 10 letters for you. If you need a minimum of 3 letters for each school, these slots will be used up rather quickly.


    8. What are letter services such as Interfolio, and why do people use them?
    Interfolio and other companies provide secure online letter holding services. You can have your letters uploaded to these services at any time so that you're not scrambling at the last minute (or during the summer!) to get letters into your application. This can be especially beneficial when you are 9 months or so out from your planned application cycle, but know the professor you have NOW will write you a great letter. You can have them write the letter, upload it to a letter service, and then many months later have the letter sent to AMCAS once the application opens. When you do this, you have the ability to add on both your AMCAS ID and the Letter ID to the letter. All your letter writer needs to do is upload the letter (or mail it in) on letterhead and with a signature. These sites are secure and they do not allow you to read the letter beforehand.

    9. What else about letters do I need to know?
    Your letter must be SIGNED, and should be on OFFICIAL LETTERHEAD whenever possible. This is something that holds people up every year. Some schools will even hold up your application because of this. Also, AMCAS has a beautiful FAQ dealing with letters here: https://www.aamc.org/students/applyi...ding_page.html

    10. How should I ask someone for a letter of req?
    On this one, I will give my own experience. For each letter writer, I prepared a packet. In the packet I had:
    A list of all of my science grades (or non-science grades for a non-science prof)
    A copy of my resume
    A rough draft of my personal statement
    A guide to writing medical school letters (which can be found by googling), a reminder that the letter needed to be signed and on letterhead.

    Before handing them this (because who wants all that before they even say yes!) I asked them point blank if they "would feel comfortable writing me a strong letter of recommendation for medical school". Always do this in person!!! If they hesitate...walk away. Seriously. You don't want this person writing your letter.

    When they enthusiastically said yes, I pulled the packet out of my backpack and gave it to them.

    Because I used Interfolio, I did not need to provide them with my AMCAS ID or Letter ID, but instead told them that they would get an email from Interfolio that evening with instructions on how to upload the letter. Give them a FIRM deadline (2-4 weeks seems to work best) for when you need the letter. Don't ask at the last minute. Don't ask when you think a billion other people will be asking. Do offer to provide them with any other supplementary information they would like. And do give them a thank-you note (and maybe a Starbucks card) when they submit the letter.

    11. OMG! My letter writer has not written my letter!!! It has been minutes/hours/days/weeks/months and I'm freaking out!! What do I do!?
    First, stop by or email and gently remind them that you need the letter by X date. If this doesn't work, I have given them a premature Thank-You note with a small token, and this seems to light a fire. I recommended this method to someone on SDN last year and it apparently worked like a charm.

    If this isn't working....you do the same thing you do whenever something goes awry - find a plan B. Ask someone else...two other people even, just in case this person does not come through. You can't have too many letters. But you can have too few.
    12. Do I have to waive my right to see the letters?
    No. But if you don't schools might not see them as letters that carry much weight. Waive your right. If you know the person well enough, you should have a pretty good idea of what they are going to write.

    13. If I apply this June, and I have given every school my 5 chosen LOR's with committee letter through AMCAS virtual evals upload by my prehealth office, and then I get anther LOR over the summer/fall and want to send it to all schools in December, do I have to have the prof mail it to all 25 schools or will AMCAS distribute it?

    or, tl;dr: Can I submit my application without the letters?
    You can add a letter at ANY time in AMCAS, have it sent to AMCAS, and AMCAS will distribute it.
    You may want to shoot an email to each school letting them know to expect another letter just in case. They should be updating your file continuously (they will want your current contact info, and often people change their addresses mid cycle) but they may not always do it in a timely manner.

    Please send me a PM if you know of additional questions suitable for the FAQ.
     

    Attached Files:

    #1 Ismet, Mar 24, 2014
    Last edited: May 30, 2014
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  3. Stephanopolous

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    Received a great letter from my a&p professor- but he says recommend for md program- will do schools frown upon this?? I'm applying to both this upcoming cycle.
     
  4. Pacna

    Pacna Dyslexics, untie!
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    PI = private investigator? I don't have one of those. :(
     
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  5. Ismet

    Ismet PGY-fun!
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    Principal investigator. The lead researcher on a project.
     
  6. Stephanopolous

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    Another question- I already have two letters of recommendation on my Interfolio account. How do I pair the AMCAS letter of evaluation form with these?
     
  7. JSall2011

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    Is it recommended or possible to have more than 3 LOR or would you recommend sticking to the typical 3?
     
  8. Ismet

    Ismet PGY-fun!
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    You can have up to 10. Check individual schools' websites to see what they want/don't want.
     
  9. Boolean

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    One of my professors is on the adcom board for my u-grads medical school (which I'll likely be applying to). He's willing to write me an LOR. Good idea or bad? I don't want to do something I shouldn't.
     
  10. bltng

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    Hi,

    If I am planning to submit my AMCAS app early June (without my MCAT score until mid-June ish), when's the latest (during June) can I send my LORs to AMCAS without delaying verification?

    Or does verification have nothing to do with LOR receipt, while application complete does? If so, is there a 'preferred' date to have them sent in by?
     
  11. Spinach Dip

    Spinach Dip Delicious with nachos
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    If I am a re-applicant, can I use letters from last year, or do I need to get a whole new set?
     
  12. kk123

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    Does it make a difference whether the professor writing the LOR has a MS or a PhD?
     
  13. Admissions to Medicine

    Admissions to Medicine Former Adcom
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    Why would this ever be a bad idea? -Admissionstomedicine
     
  14. Admissions to Medicine

    Admissions to Medicine Former Adcom
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    LORs are not part of the verification process. The verification process starts when your application is submitted and transcripts received. The verification process is only concerned with your grades - making sure that what you entered was correct and computing a system-wide GPA. -admissionstomedicine
     
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  15. Admissions to Medicine

    Admissions to Medicine Former Adcom
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    It really depends on the capacity in which the writer has interacted with you. However, with that said, a LOR from someone with a doctorate degree will normally pull more weight. -Admissionstomedicine
     
  16. silentshadow59

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    @Admissions to Medicine I have a question regarding LORs that are uploaded and sent through Interfolio. I have all of my letters in Interfolio right now, and I noticed it took almost no time for the majority of my letter writers to upload it (I assume it was uploaded bc it was received by interfolio the same or next day)
    Anyhow, I have waived my right to read any of these letters, so I'm assuming if they were uploaded, they may not be actually signed. If their information (full name, school, email, phone number etc) is on the letter, will it be hurtful if there is not a physical signature? this sort of worries me and I just want to know what the consensus is on this before I go back asking/pestering each of them about this
     
  17. megaman1

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    I wanted to ask my dance TA (MFA student) for a LOR and have another professor she's working under sign it. The thing is that she is faculty at a community college, and now she's pursuing her MFA at our university. Ask or not ask, and will it qualify as a non-science LOR? Thanks!
     
  18. Ismet

    Ismet PGY-fun!
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    Merging related threads
     
  19. phunky

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    I'm a year out of school and getting ready to apply.

    I have 2 science letters currently in the works from a Math and Biochem professor, both of which I expect to be excellent. I should also have a letter from my current PI, which I expect to be great as well.

    My problem is the non-science letter. I didn't take a non-science class for my last 2 years of school. None of my professors from undergrad would remember me. I've taken 2 non-science night classes with the same professor this year, but try as I might, I haven't managed to build a strong relationship. It's impossible for me to go to office hours, but I've talked to him a few times after class and participate actively in discussions. I don't think I'll get an amazing letter from him, even if he's willing to write one, but it seems like I don't have any other choice.

    How much is this going to hurt me?
     
  20. blubearzangel

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    What does an ideal, perfect LOR look like?
     
  21. Underu

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    "Dear Admissions,
    As Dean of Medical Admissions of Harvard Medical School, I am directing you to admit @blubearzangel immediately. Disregard her AMCAS application, as it is only a formality. I have already contacted the office of financial aid to waive her tuition and provide her a living stipend equal to my own salary.
    In addition, pay for her interview costs and make sure her meal consists of filet mignon from the choicest Kobe beef, accompanied by premium aged cabernet sauvignon. Find her the finest hotel in all of Boston, price is no object. I expect all these things to be done yesterday.

    Sincerely,
    The Big Man in Charge"

    For a more serious answer, feel free to use google or the search function.
    Here, I did your work for you.
     
  22. Reckoner

    Reckoner Lacks theology and geometry
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    To whom it may concern,

    He touched this.

    Best,
    MC Hammer
     
    #21 Reckoner, Mar 30, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2014
  23. Ismet

    Ismet PGY-fun!
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  24. kingrumak

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    Hey Guys,

    I will be applying MD/PhD this application cycle. I was accepted to a summer program at MD Anderson and I feel that a letter from my PI from this program would really strengthen my application. However, I am a little bit unsure regarding the timeline for when I need to have my LORs sent. Will I be at a disadvantage if I wait until the program ends (Aug. 8) to get my program PI's LOR for my application?

    At the moment I have two professors who can write me solid letters regarding my research capacity and another professor who can write me a decent letter but I want to substitute her letter for the MD Anderson one if possible.

    Any help would be appreciated.
     
  25. Spinach Dip

    Spinach Dip Delicious with nachos
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    As for committee letters, you couldn't go wrong with this one:



    Dear admissions commitee,

    This applicant has shown an admirable dedication to helping the poor, performing groundbreaking research, and original thought. We would all stake our careers on this applicant being one of the greatest doctors of the coming century.

    Signed,
    Mother Theresa
    Albert Einstein
    Thomas Jefferson
     
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  26. Harpsx

    Harpsx x
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    If you're confident your LOR's are not the problem, then you can use the same letters. I re-used my exact same letters when I reapplied. It wouldn't hurt to add one new letter to your set though if you have a good writer willing to write one for you.
     
  27. blubearzangel

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    Hahah IF ONLY!

    But in all seriousness, my supervisor has an MPH but she has never written a medical school LOR and would like some advice on what to put.

    Any suggestions? Should she talk about my medical career interests, my personality, my work ethic..? And how long should the letter be?
     
  28. Great White Buffalo

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    I actually had a new Assistant Professor who only wrote LOR for residents, not med students. Asked me to draft my own first for his review. Had my Dad assist in the draft (he's a academic MD/PhD). My Dad has had to draft multiple LOR for himself for his busy mentors/Dept Chairs throughout his career, so he had a lot of practice (and recruit residents, so sees a lot of LOR).

    Ended up giving my first draft it to the resident on the project to review, then incorporated his comments and sent a final draft to the Asst Professor. He was really appreciative of the draft. Offer to do a first draft, as it really helps busy folks get a flavor of your unique contributions to a project, but have others review first. Really helped create a strong LOR with details that the Professors sometimes just don't have time to do it justice.
     
  29. blubearzangel

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    That's exactly what I was planning on doing. Do you mind sharing what qualities about yourself that you included and emphasized?
     
  30. Great White Buffalo

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    I did a CS project for an Ophthalmology Digital Database that we ended up getting 2 patents on the software. Sort of unique. Talked about bridging the clinical digital divide. More general: the resident had me add stuff about my ability to mental compile mountains of information, have a background in both mathematical and statistical modeling, stellar code writing ability, ability to communicate complex software issues to medical staff on the project and just an all around fun guy!! Basically, give the impression that medical school wouldn't be a challenge, that you are a superior student, have an exceptional work ethic, and contributed to a team effort with outstanding social skills. If you have overcome a real challenge, or had a unique solution to a problem, even better.

    My sister worked in a lab, and ended up contributing original artwork sketches for paper publications that got her a lot of kudos (as attribution/ permission to use others photos/pictures can be a real bear for publication purposes). Think about what you did that was a bit different than just running protocols. 2 Examples: did you construct a plastic box to run gels that didn't required a $500 product from a scientific vendor? Did you create a streamlined way to create reagents in bulk to avoid the lab spending precious dollars on chemical supplies?
     
  31. clavicle

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    Non-science faculty question...

    My school no longer writes committee letters so I have to submit individual letters. One of the schools I plan on applying to requires both science and non-science faculty letters. Currently, I have two science faculty letters (one from a professor and one from my old PI), one non-science non-faculty letter (old boss), and possibly a letter from my current PI (a physician).

    I've already graduated and was wondering if some schools will waive the non-science faculty requirement if you have a normal non-science letter instead. Has anyone else had the same issue?
     
  32. mms0915

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    I am currently an MPH student and finished my undergrad May 2013. My undergrad uses the letter packet format and I have quite a few professors who wrote for me (3 science, 3 non). I also have two physicians who I shadowed and wrote letters. I have two MPH professors with whom I have a strong relationship willing to write me great letters (both are also research related). Is that overkill?
     
  33. johnnycage377

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    I want to apply as early as possible (for MD and DO). When should I have my letters in by?
     
  34. bman992

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    I currently have 5 recommendations (+1 cover letter for one of the recs) and I'll be going through a committee letter interview soon. I wrote my personal statement for a large part about 1 of the doctors I shadowed but he is very busy and I'm not sure if I should bother him about getting a letter in. I already have 1 letter from another doctor. Do you advise that I should get a letter from the personal statement doctor?
    If I do, then I'll have 6 + a committee letter and I'm worried that some schools will be upset that I went over their max of 5 letters. Since they will be combined in a letter packet I don't have a choice in deciding which letters to send. What is your opinion?

    Thank you!
     
    #33 bman992, Apr 3, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2014
  35. isthisanonymousenough

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    sfdgljhskdfgs
     
    #34 isthisanonymousenough, Apr 7, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2014
  36. ta8901

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    Hello everyone,

    I am going to be applying for the upcoming cycle and am having some issues regarding letters of rec. I attend a very large school and made the huge mistake of not going regularly to office hours to get to know my professors really on a personal level. I know that this is my fault but what is done is done and I can't really change much about that!

    I currently have 1 letter from my PI who knows me very well and is likely to be very strong. I have also confirmed to get a letter from the mentor of my student government, who is a Dean. this letter may also be strong. I am planning to get a letter from an administrator who was a mentor for a student organization that I am president of -- this letter will also be strong.

    I am currently scrambling trying to get a letter form a professor who has actually taught me in a science class. However, how much will it hurt me if I have these 3 strong letters from people who haven't taught me and 1 possibly very lukewarm letter form a science prof? If it helps my GPA is strong (3.9+). My MCAT is a 34.

    I am aiming for competitive schools and I know that when you get in this kind of territory (top 20s) they are just looking for reasons to reject you.
     
  37. SmurfTurf

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    I took some classes at a community college before going onto university. The community college had much smaller classes, so I got to know my professors on a much more personal level. My General Chemistry professor (PhD in Biochem) and a psychology teacher (PhD in psychology) both offered to write me great letters. I have since been taking classes at my state university, but with class sizes so huge (my organic lecture has 200 students and the labs are taught by grad students), I haven't gotten to know my professors. So, if the professors have a PhD either way, is it better to get a strong letter from community college professors, or a weaker letter basically saying "So and so took my class, got an A and was a good student", from a university professor more desirable just because I took the class at a university. I work closely with some physicians at the local medical school who have also offered to write me letters that will be great, but I'm just worried about the science/non-science letters required by most schools
     
  38. It says that it can hold up to 10 letters. Say I have 8 letters, will AMCAS be able to send them to all the schools I apply to?
     
  39. areserine

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    This may have been answered elsewhere, but I'm a bit confused. My school submits a committee packet, including info about the school and the letters of rec, including a committee letter. Does this mean that I don't need to meet the individual requirements of schools? Specifically a non-science faculty letter? Additionally, my packet will be the same for each school since I can't pick and choose. Do I need to be worried about this for schools that want "only three letters" if my packet will have something like 6?

    I also noticed that one school that I will apply to, UF http://admissions.med.ufl.edu/admission-requirements/, wants letters sent separately from the committee letter. If my packet is going to include a "character" letter like from a coach, do I need to have that person also upload it somewhere else in addition to sending it to my pre-med committee?
     
  40. Copernicium

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    Same question, except for a letter packet. I know it counts as one entry, but does it count as one letter as well? If my packet has 5 letters, and I have another letter uploaded independently (2 entries), does this count as two letters or 6 letters? Essentially, this:

     
  41. gonnif

    gonnif Only 810 Days Until Next Presidential Election
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    To elaborate further, having someone on the adcom who knows write the letter will be a positive. The letter writer will carry weight on the adcom as someone who knows what they are looking for and what should be in a medical student. It also allows the letter writer to make you more "human" than a file.
     
  42. gonnif

    gonnif Only 810 Days Until Next Presidential Election
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    Your committee letter/packet counts as 1 letter even if it contains multiple separate letters from individuals. Bear in mind that not all committees will include full letters, thought I would speculate a majority would. Also many medical schools may ask for a committee letter OR individual letters, so check requirements for each. And even if you committee letter includes 6 letters as part of the packet, you still can get separate letters from those same professors to be sent via interfolio or AMCAS direct
     
  43. gonnif

    gonnif Only 810 Days Until Next Presidential Election
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    AMCAS could but I would not recommend this "shotgun" approach. Quality not quantity will impress an adcom more; typical rule of thumb is 4 to 6.
     
  44. stigus

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    What's the general consensus on reusing letters? I have one from a new science PI, and hopefully one from a non-science prof in a class I'm taking this summer. However, I had a host of them from last year that I feel went to waste. Should I approach my writers again?

    Also would it be ok to ask schools that rejected me for feedback on the letters I did submit?
     
  45. gettheleadout

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    Some thoughts on getting updated letters: Do you have new experience with your writers since their last letters? Can they or will they comment on your growth or improvement in qualifications since your last app?

    As far as the schools go, while I'm sure it's fine to ask them for feedback on your application in general, I doubt they'll be able to comment on your letters specifically as this might constitute a violation of the confidentiality of the letters.
     
  46. gonnif

    gonnif Only 810 Days Until Next Presidential Election
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    There is a slight misnomer that both the typical applicant and letter writer have about the confidentiality of LOR. This confidentiality is specifically waiving your rights to see the letter under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA ) under the commonly called Buckley amendment. This means that the applicant can not demand to read the letter. However, there is nothing in this waiver that prevents a letter writing from sharing the letter with the applicant. In other words, the student can not request, but the letter writer is free to give if he/she chooses to do so. That does not violate any confidentiality agreement. It is perfectly fine for a letter writer to give you a copy of the letter if he/she so chooses.
     
  47. stigus

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    I don't have any new experiences with my previous writers per se, but one of them works in the same building that I do, and he's fairly caught up on what I've been doing in my gap year (i.e new research with another PI)

    Very well. I'll of course listen to whatever they have to say, and if the letters come up organically, even better

    Thanks
     
  48. keevwu

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    I have a non-science letter from my teacher in a writing class. He was the only person teaching the class, grading the class, etc. However, he did not have an official title as "professor." He has a PhD. Is this going to be okay as my "non-science" rec?
     
  49. gonnif

    gonnif Only 810 Days Until Next Presidential Election
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    He would be considered an instructor and is perfectly fine to use as non-science LOR
     
  50. drmak89

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    I'm currently doing a self post bacc. The school where I am taking the classes have a pre-med committee. The committee letter consists of quoting various other letters I submit to them. Is it ok if I send in the committee letter along with the LOR that they quoted? I plan on sendng that with a science prof., non-science prof., internship supervisor and 2 doctors. I am undecided about submitting a letter from work.
     
  51. gonnif

    gonnif Only 810 Days Until Next Presidential Election
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    yes, that is typically what students do. Some medical schools require a committee letter OR individual letters or some combination thereof. So you may need to send in only a committee letter or only a individual letters
     
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