*~*~*~* Official Letters of Recommendation Questions Thread 2020-2021 *~*~*~*

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TheDataKing

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Disclaimer: This post was not written by me, it has been passed down through the ages over a campfire.

This thread is for 2021 applicants (those who will be entering medical school in 2021) 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.

LINK TO LAST YEAR'S THREAD

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.
 

MoTheGreatish

Currently a prestigious PD (Plague Doctor)
Jan 14, 2020
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Hello! I have a question concerning one of my recommenders. I have just emailed my research supervisor for an LOR for this year's AMCAS asking for a letter. I mentioned that I wanted to apply early and that I prefer to have it in early June. They replied to me saying that they couldn't write me one for the next 3 weeks because they're involved in COVID research at the moment and are very busy. They've written a reference for me before but it wasn't related to research (I was in several of his courses back then). Is this a no? How should I respond if I still want the letter and am fine with him submitting whenever he is able to?
 
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Hello! I have a question concerning one of my recommenders. I have just emailed my research supervisor for an LOR for this year's AMCAS asking for a letter. I mentioned that I wanted to apply early and that I prefer to have it in early June. They replied to me saying that they couldn't write me one for the next 3 weeks because they're involved in COVID research at the moment and are very busy. They've written a reference for me before but it wasn't related to research (I was in several of his courses back then). Is this a no? How should I respond if I still want the letter and am fine with him submitting whenever he is able to?
I would follow up and just clarify that you can wait if need be. But if its a no don't push it further.
 
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I have 6 letters and TMDSAS only accepts four, which ones do you recommend I use? I applied 2018-2019 with 2 science (One likely very good-excellent and one possibly generic/weak), 1 non science (likely very good-excellent), 1 PI (good - very good as I worked with a grad student in his lab for 2.5 yrs). This year I got two new letters, 1 MD (excellent), and 1 DO (excellent) from my clinical job.

I got the very good-excellent science and nonscience professor to update the timestamp to 2020. The PI is also willing to update the timestamp to 2020. The DO is faculty at an MD state school. I listed research as most meaningful so I feel like I should definitely include the PI letter. I also want to include the two physician letters as they are the most recent in terms of content. So for the last slot, I feel like I should include the updated science letter? Or should I drop one of the physician letters to include the nonscience professor as well. Any input would be appreciated
 

gonnif

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Hello! I have a question concerning one of my recommenders. I have just emailed my research supervisor for an LOR for this year's AMCAS asking for a letter. I mentioned that I wanted to apply early and that I prefer to have it in early June. They replied to me saying that they couldn't write me one for the next 3 weeks because they're involved in COVID research at the moment and are very busy. They've written a reference for me before but it wasn't related to research (I was in several of his courses back then). Is this a no? How should I respond if I still want the letter and am fine with him submitting whenever he is able to?
I would follow up and just clarify that you can wait if need be. But if its a no don't push it further.
There is absolutely no need for anyone to need letters by June
1) The AMCAS Letter Service and the AMCAS primary application are separate systems
2) You do not, repeat, do not need letters to have primary verified and transmitted to the schools
3) at the vast majority of schools, you do not need letters to have secondary sent to you
4) you need letters in with your secondary, primary and MCAT in order to move to evaluation
5) the cycle is already delaying this year
6) having letters in by August 1st would be very, very early, By September 1st early

********AMCAS 2021 Timeline Summary (post count #010)************
-Applicants should be filling out the AMCAS 2021.
-AMCAS provides dozens of “How to” tutorial and videos, most of which are linked in my signature. Applicants should download the free 2021 AMCAS Applicant Guide when available. It should be considered the study guide on how to fill out AMCAS.
-Applicants should have the MSAR, which should be considered the text book for the application process
-Applying to medical school is a full time job from May until through September and then on call for the rest of the cycle. There is no general rule across schools when they may evaluate and review your application, possibly invite you for an interview, when the interview may be, when a decision may be reached, or when you may get off a WL. For some of you, the cycle will run until August 2021.
-AMCAS May 4, 2020, Primary application opens up. Can send formal requests for transcripts from your schools and letter requests to your letter writers.
-AMCAS May 28, 2020, Completed primary applications with all ECs, PS, and course information can be submitted.
-You enter the verification queue (“time to verify”) only when both completed primary application and all transcripts have been received.
-AMCAS does not, repeat, does not verify LOR or MCAT score. Your primary application will be verified regardless of LOR or MCAT score status
-AMCAS June 26, 2020 (delayed to due Corona/COVID-19), JULY 10 begins transmission verified applications (though some schools have secondaries sent to contact info upon submission to AMCAS)
-Verification peak is about August 1st and takes 20 days
-Most Primary Apps are transmitted early July thru early September
-Secondaries timelines can vary widely as to when to they are sent out from almost immediately upon submissions to 3 months, though most are in the range 1-3 weeks after transmission.
-Letters via AMCAS are processed/transmitted separately from primary
-Letters can be added after primary has been submitted and transmitted and are mostly not needed until secondary reviews at the earliest.
-While applications are transmitted at end of June, most schools do not start any processing until at least mid-July at the earliest; even then, most dont get up to full speed until mid-August.
-There are usually 3 main phases in processing application
----1) Initial Screening/Evaluation: A hybrid of automatic GPA/MCAT screen plus human for "quick review" of application. Used to for general priority and, in some cases, which team/subcommittee gets application. At some schools, preset criteria or informal policy can lead to II at this stage.
----2) Full Evaluation: This is where evaluator/reader/team/subcommittee will fully evaluate all sections of primary, secondary, and LOR and generally summarize in broad categories or point system. This essentially becomes your priority for adcom review and II. This function may be split up among several evaluators and may go to a team or subcommittee for II decision. Application are not typically evaluated until complete with Primary, Secondary, MCAT, and LOR
----3) Full adcom: this is where your fully evaluated application is reviewed and decided for interview invite After interview Adcom will vote on admission (acceptance or alternate WL)
-Application and candidate evaluations timeline varies widely by school may not done in a linear, chronological order. EDP, High achievers, URM, family of alumni, feeder schools, associated UG programs, linked postbaccs, and other factor may push an app forward in the process.
-Most adcoms dont start meeting for review of evaluated applicants until at least mid-August, more likely September, though some reviews may be done earlier for groups mentioned above. Evaluation may start almost immediately at some schools.
-Schools receive 5,000-10,000 application but can only evaluate several hundred applications a week. Therefore, it can take anywhere from 4-16 weeks (1-4 months) or more to be evaluated, reviewed and invited for interview after your application is complete.
-Schools must reduce several thousand applications to several hundred interviews.
At least 80% of applicants at any individual school must be rejected pre-interview.
-There are about 900,000 individual applications across 150+ medical schools with about 150,000 interview slots maximum. That means on average of 16 submitted applications only 3 will get an II.
-Applicants should check each applicant portal daily until application is marked complete, under review, or similar. After that, you should check applicant portal 2 to 3 times as week as schools may invite you for interview solely by portal; some schools do not send email for interview invite.’
-Medical Schools are deciding on Acceptance. All applicants start as “Unaccepted” or rejected. With 60% of applicants not getting a seat, all applicants must assume that may be reapplicants and start enhancing their record from the moment they submit AMCAS.
-Medical schools have no requirement to inform you of any decision other than an interview invite, an acceptance, or alternate/WL position. Some schools will never send out any rejection or other notice on your application as all start as “rejected”.
-Timing of early, on time or late refers to any impact that “lateness” may have on your chances. Being early or on time does not improve your chances but rather it means that timing will not be a factor in lowering your chances.
-Submitting Primary Application June is Early, July Medium, August Late
-Having Primary verified and transmitted to school by middle of August is normal speed
-Having Secondary and all LORs complete to school by Labor Day Mid-to-Late September (due to Corona/COVID-19) is likely early for all applicants at all schools, even highly competitive programs.
-Late September to Early October is about on time for solid candidates at most programs
-End of October is about late for almost all programs
-After that point you will generally start getting impacted by the number of applications submitted and the finite number of essentially rolling interview slots. Seats given by rolling admissions is not a big factor in this. These aren’t absolute dates nor is it a fixed timeline. It should be used as a guideline
-Medical schools focus on evaluation and pre-II review up until approximately Thanksgiving. At that time they need to start transitioning to post-interview acceptance decision. However, with the increasing number of applications per school, some fraction of interview invites will continue into the new year.
-Timing matters to getting your application in. Once you are in and evaluated, timing has little impact on your chances. It is a myth that schools fill all the seats early and then just have alternate slots.
-When you get invited for an interview is a better indicator of your interest of the school rather than when the actual interview is. Stronger candidates typically invited earlier.
-Medical schools cannot inform regular MD candidates of admission (acceptance or alternate) prior to Oct 15th. However, medical school can inform applicants of any other decision, such as rejection or hold, at any time from initial primary submission until past end of cycle. Do note that the only formal vote an admission committee need to make is for admission (acceptance or alternate/WL) and that is the only decision they must inform you about. A large fraction of applicants will never get a formal rejection; they will simply never get II or acceptance.


Getting primary in on time does matter because of all the other items that follow it. But applicants often see the beginning and not understanding how it flows from there. Additionally, how each school then opens a file, reviews them on GPA, MCAT, and other factors, and what order they wind up in a queue has less to do with when the primary arrives then when the secondary is completed and received. Since the majority of schools, I dare say, send out pre-transmission, unscreened, or minimal cut off screened secondaries, this is probably a larger factor in where you wind up in the queue for 1) reading an application and 2) decision on interview invite. As I have said previously, and will undoubtedly say dozens of time during this 2021 application cycle (see count above) review of apps is not simply done in a linear chronological order. High achievers, URM, family of alumni, feeder schools, associated UG programs, linked postbaccs, and other factor may push an app forward in the process.
 

MoTheGreatish

Currently a prestigious PD (Plague Doctor)
Jan 14, 2020
83
38
Status
Pre-Medical
There is absolutely no need for anyone to need letters by June
1) The AMCAS Letter Service and the AMCAS primary application are separate systems
2) You do not, repeat, do not need letters to have primary verified and transmitted to the schools
3) at the vast majority of schools, you do not need letters to have secondary sent to you
4) you need letters in with your secondary, primary and MCAT in order to move to evaluation
5) the cycle is already delaying this year
6) having letters in by August 1st would be very, very early, By September 1st early

********AMCAS 2021 Timeline Summary (post count #010)************
-Applicants should be filling out the AMCAS 2021.
-AMCAS provides dozens of “How to” tutorial and videos, most of which are linked in my signature. Applicants should download the free 2021 AMCAS Applicant Guide when available. It should be considered the study guide on how to fill out AMCAS.
-Applicants should have the MSAR, which should be considered the text book for the application process
-Applying to medical school is a full time job from May until through September and then on call for the rest of the cycle. There is no general rule across schools when they may evaluate and review your application, possibly invite you for an interview, when the interview may be, when a decision may be reached, or when you may get off a WL. For some of you, the cycle will run until August 2021.
-AMCAS May 4, 2020, Primary application opens up. Can send formal requests for transcripts from your schools and letter requests to your letter writers.
-AMCAS May 28, 2020, Completed primary applications with all ECs, PS, and course information can be submitted.
-You enter the verification queue (“time to verify”) only when both completed primary application and all transcripts have been received.
-AMCAS does not, repeat, does not verify LOR or MCAT score. Your primary application will be verified regardless of LOR or MCAT score status
-AMCAS June 26, 2020 (delayed to due Corona/COVID-19), JULY 10 begins transmission verified applications (though some schools have secondaries sent to contact info upon submission to AMCAS)
-Verification peak is about August 1st and takes 20 days
-Most Primary Apps are transmitted early July thru early September
-Secondaries timelines can vary widely as to when to they are sent out from almost immediately upon submissions to 3 months, though most are in the range 1-3 weeks after transmission.
-Letters via AMCAS are processed/transmitted separately from primary
-Letters can be added after primary has been submitted and transmitted and are mostly not needed until secondary reviews at the earliest.
-While applications are transmitted at end of June, most schools do not start any processing until at least mid-July at the earliest; even then, most dont get up to full speed until mid-August.
-There are usually 3 main phases in processing application
----1) Initial Screening/Evaluation: A hybrid of automatic GPA/MCAT screen plus human for "quick review" of application. Used to for general priority and, in some cases, which team/subcommittee gets application. At some schools, preset criteria or informal policy can lead to II at this stage.
----2) Full Evaluation: This is where evaluator/reader/team/subcommittee will fully evaluate all sections of primary, secondary, and LOR and generally summarize in broad categories or point system. This essentially becomes your priority for adcom review and II. This function may be split up among several evaluators and may go to a team or subcommittee for II decision. Application are not typically evaluated until complete with Primary, Secondary, MCAT, and LOR
----3) Full adcom: this is where your fully evaluated application is reviewed and decided for interview invite After interview Adcom will vote on admission (acceptance or alternate WL)
-Application and candidate evaluations timeline varies widely by school may not done in a linear, chronological order. EDP, High achievers, URM, family of alumni, feeder schools, associated UG programs, linked postbaccs, and other factor may push an app forward in the process.
-Most adcoms dont start meeting for review of evaluated applicants until at least mid-August, more likely September, though some reviews may be done earlier for groups mentioned above. Evaluation may start almost immediately at some schools.
-Schools receive 5,000-10,000 application but can only evaluate several hundred applications a week. Therefore, it can take anywhere from 4-16 weeks (1-4 months) or more to be evaluated, reviewed and invited for interview after your application is complete.
-Schools must reduce several thousand applications to several hundred interviews.
At least 80% of applicants at any individual school must be rejected pre-interview.
-There are about 900,000 individual applications across 150+ medical schools with about 150,000 interview slots maximum. That means on average of 16 submitted applications only 3 will get an II.
-Applicants should check each applicant portal daily until application is marked complete, under review, or similar. After that, you should check applicant portal 2 to 3 times as week as schools may invite you for interview solely by portal; some schools do not send email for interview invite.’
-Medical Schools are deciding on Acceptance. All applicants start as “Unaccepted” or rejected. With 60% of applicants not getting a seat, all applicants must assume that may be reapplicants and start enhancing their record from the moment they submit AMCAS.
-Medical schools have no requirement to inform you of any decision other than an interview invite, an acceptance, or alternate/WL position. Some schools will never send out any rejection or other notice on your application as all start as “rejected”.
-Timing of early, on time or late refers to any impact that “lateness” may have on your chances. Being early or on time does not improve your chances but rather it means that timing will not be a factor in lowering your chances.
-Submitting Primary Application June is Early, July Medium, August Late
-Having Primary verified and transmitted to school by middle of August is normal speed
-Having Secondary and all LORs complete to school by Labor Day Mid-to-Late September (due to Corona/COVID-19) is likely early for all applicants at all schools, even highly competitive programs.
-Late September to Early October is about on time for solid candidates at most programs
-End of October is about late for almost all programs
-After that point you will generally start getting impacted by the number of applications submitted and the finite number of essentially rolling interview slots. Seats given by rolling admissions is not a big factor in this. These aren’t absolute dates nor is it a fixed timeline. It should be used as a guideline
-Medical schools focus on evaluation and pre-II review up until approximately Thanksgiving. At that time they need to start transitioning to post-interview acceptance decision. However, with the increasing number of applications per school, some fraction of interview invites will continue into the new year.
-Timing matters to getting your application in. Once you are in and evaluated, timing has little impact on your chances. It is a myth that schools fill all the seats early and then just have alternate slots.
-When you get invited for an interview is a better indicator of your interest of the school rather than when the actual interview is. Stronger candidates typically invited earlier.
-Medical schools cannot inform regular MD candidates of admission (acceptance or alternate) prior to Oct 15th. However, medical school can inform applicants of any other decision, such as rejection or hold, at any time from initial primary submission until past end of cycle. Do note that the only formal vote an admission committee need to make is for admission (acceptance or alternate/WL) and that is the only decision they must inform you about. A large fraction of applicants will never get a formal rejection; they will simply never get II or acceptance.


Getting primary in on time does matter because of all the other items that follow it. But applicants often see the beginning and not understanding how it flows from there. Additionally, how each school then opens a file, reviews them on GPA, MCAT, and other factors, and what order they wind up in a queue has less to do with when the primary arrives then when the secondary is completed and received. Since the majority of schools, I dare say, send out pre-transmission, unscreened, or minimal cut off screened secondaries, this is probably a larger factor in where you wind up in the queue for 1) reading an application and 2) decision on interview invite. As I have said previously, and will undoubtedly say dozens of time during this 2021 application cycle (see count above) review of apps is not simply done in a linear chronological order. High achievers, URM, family of alumni, feeder schools, associated UG programs, linked postbaccs, and other factor may push an app forward in the process.
Thank you Gonnif, I appreciate your guidance on this!
 

Arodramaticity

2+ Year Member
Mar 7, 2018
50
34
Status
Pre-Medical
Hi all,

So I'm trying to arrange a strong combination of letters to send to schools, but I'm having trouble trying decide which letters to send. I have an HCL letter, 2 science letters, and a letter from my Spanish professor. Some schools allow for one more letter to be sent and I'm torn between another PI i've worked with last summer or my advisor for a community service organization that I founded. The community service organization is a significant extracurricular activity, and I'm going to mention it in my essays. Though I know that science/research letters are highly valued. If I don't include a letter from a significant EC, does it look bad? Would they expect a letter from my advisor if I focus my essays on this EC?
 
May 19, 2019
57
20
Status
Pre-Medical
I understand that if a PI is science faculty, then a letter from them can count as one of the 2 required science faculty letters. If my research is included on my transcript as a course for credit (3 credit pass/fail biology course "BIOL 500: Independent Research"), does this also allow my PI letter to be used for schools that specifically call for 2 science professors with which I've taken a course?

For most schools I'm applying to, (23/27), it's clear that my PI letter will count as a second science letter because they are faculty. For the others I am not so sure. Harvard, for example, calls for 2 professors in the sciences with whom I've taken classes. Would this count?

I've tried reaching out to my biochem professor for weeks to get another professor that obviously fits this mold, but he hasn't been responsive, I assume partly due to being pre-occupied dealing with teaching from home. My pre-health advisor told me that if I asked my PI to stress my science capabilities, that it may make up for not having a strict second science professor letter for schools such as Harvard. What do you think? I'd hate to be rejected from Harvard straight out simply because I didn't have appropriate LORs.

Also, my school uses a letter packet with a cover letter written by my prehealth advisor (I'm told this counts as an additional LOR)
 
Last edited:

Arodramaticity

2+ Year Member
Mar 7, 2018
50
34
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Pre-Medical
I understand that if a PI is science faculty, then a letter from them can count as one of the 2 required science faculty letters. If my research is included on my transcript as a course for credit (3 credit pass/fail biology course "BIOL 500: Independent Research"), does this also allow my PI letter to be used for schools that specifically call for 2 science professors with which I've taken a course?

For most schools I'm applying to, (23/27), it's clear that my PI letter will count as a second science letter because they are faculty. For the others I am not so sure. Harvard, for example, calls for 2 professors in the sciences with whom I've taken classes. Would this count?

I've tried reaching out to my biochem professor for weeks to get another professor that obviously fits this mold, but he hasn't been responsive, I assume partly due to being pre-occupied dealing with teaching from home. My pre-health advisor told me that if I asked my PI to stress my science capabilities, that it may make up for not having a strict second science professor letter for schools such as Harvard. What do you think? I'd hate to be rejected from Harvard straight out simply because I didn't have appropriate LORs.

Also, my school uses a letter packet with a cover letter written by my prehealth advisor (I'm told this counts as an additional LOR)
I'm wondering this too because I'm in the same situation!
 

gonnif

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I understand that if a PI is science faculty, then a letter from them can count as one of the 2 required science faculty letters. If my research is included on my transcript as a course for credit (3 credit pass/fail biology course "BIOL 500: Independent Research"), does this also allow my PI letter to be used for schools that specifically call for 2 science professors with which I've taken a course?

For most schools I'm applying to, (23/27), it's clear that my PI letter will count as a second science letter because they are faculty. For the others I am not so sure. Harvard, for example, calls for 2 professors in the sciences with whom I've taken classes. Would this count?

I've tried reaching out to my biochem professor for weeks to get another professor that obviously fits this mold, but he hasn't been responsive, I assume partly due to being pre-occupied dealing with teaching from home. My pre-health advisor told me that if I asked my PI to stress my science capabilities, that it may make up for not having a strict second science professor letter for schools such as Harvard. What do you think? I'd hate to be rejected from Harvard straight out simply because I didn't have appropriate LORs.

Also, my school uses a letter packet with a cover letter written by my prehealth advisor (I'm told this counts as an additional LOR)
It probably will. However, at a school that makes a distinction between course professors and PI, say like Harvard, it may not. At the very least it could be seen by an evaluator as not as strong.
 
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It probably will. However, at a school that makes a distinction between course professors and PI, say like Harvard, it may not. At the very least it could be seen by an evaluator as not as strong.
Would the fact it's a letter packet with a cover letter written by my prehealth committee supersede individual LOR requirements? I understand it's not a committee letter but still a little confused.
 

Twilightkp

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I've been out of school and am having trouble getting in touch with my non-science rec letter writers from a previous cycle. If I was able to register for a class for credit (i.e non-science research for credit, credit for an organization), would a letter from the professor on record for that class count as a non-science letter? I understand it might not be considered as strong but I am desperate at this point...
 
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I am using a science letter from my professor from five years ago. He rewrote it and and submited to my interfolio. He is no longer at the same university so what am I supposed to use as his contact info? Do I use the new university he teaches at or use the old one where I was his student? Thanks for the help
 

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Hi all,

So I'm trying to arrange a strong combination of letters to send to schools, but I'm having trouble trying decide which letters to send. I have an HCL letter, 2 science letters, and a letter from my Spanish professor. Some schools allow for one more letter to be sent and I'm torn between another PI i've worked with last summer or my advisor for a community service organization that I founded. The community service organization is a significant extracurricular activity, and I'm going to mention it in my essays. Though I know that science/research letters are highly valued. If I don't include a letter from a significant EC, does it look bad? Would they expect a letter from my advisor if I focus my essays on this EC?
Not having a letter for an EC is not goin
Would the fact it's a letter packet with a cover letter written by my prehealth committee supersede individual LOR requirements? I understand it's not a committee letter but still a little confused.
It wouldnt matter at Harvard, which doesnt really make the distinction between letter types. A letter packet is more like individual letters rather than committee at some schools
 

gonnif

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I am using a science letter from my professor from five years ago. He rewrote it and and submited to my interfolio. He is no longer at the same university so what am I supposed to use as his contact info? Do I use the new university he teaches at or use the old one where I was his student? Thanks for the help
New. The professor will/should make it clear of the current/old situation
 
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@gonnif Thanks for the help, I really appreciate it. Actually looking back at his email it looks like he may have just submitted the old LoR without updating anything, so it most likely has the letterhead from my undergrad. Would this change how I list the contact info? I don't want to confuse anyone who gets this letter with a different letterhead from the contact info.
 

gonnif

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@gonnif Thanks for the help, I really appreciate it. Actually looking back at his email it looks like he may have just submitted the old LoR without updating anything, so it most likely has the letterhead from my undergrad. Would this change how I list the contact info? I don't want to confuse anyone who gets this letter with a different letterhead from the contact info.
Put the current info
 
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Hi. My EMT supervisor wants to know what is the typical number of pages for a recommendation letter to med. school applicant. He has tons to say and want to pick the stories to tell, but wants to write more than one page which is typical of most rec. letter. Can you advise? Thanks
 

gonnif

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Hi. My EMT supervisor wants to know what is the typical number of pages for a recommendation letter to med. school applicant. He has tons to say and want to pick the stories to tell, but wants to write more than one page which is typical of most rec. letter. Can you advise? Thanks
Tell the EMT super not to go crazy 1 to 2 pages, if well written it shouldnt take more than 1.5
 
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Would an epidemiology upper division professor count as a non-science professor? I can't find the answer anywhere online, but if someone could direct me towards it, I'd be very appreciative. Really worried about getting letters.
 

gonnif

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Would an epidemiology upper division professor count as a non-science professor? I can't find the answer anywhere online, but if someone could direct me towards it, I'd be very appreciative. Really worried about getting letters.
Even though AMCAS uses BCPM as "science," an epidemiology professor can be seen some schools and evaluators as science and by others as non-science. If you have two clear other science letter, this letter is probably acceptable as non-science at most places, especially in this atypical cycle.
 
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Hi, I worked closely with a postdoc in a lab for two years. We completed a project that is now published. He knows me well, better than the PI does, and he has agreed to write me a LOR. The post-doc is now a faculty member at a school.
I realize that many would suggest getting a letter co-written, or at least co-signed, by the PI. For whatever reason, when I told him about this, he said he'd never heard of such a thing, and did not want my PI to cosign the letter. I think he would write me a much better letter than my PI would because he knows me better. Would this be an issue if I didn't get the letter cosigned by my PI? I'll probably still list my PI as the contact person on my AMCAS. If I can list multiple contact people, I'll list both my PI and the postdoc.
 
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AquaticSunrise13

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If I’m submitting letters of recommendation and 3 of them ( 2 science professors, and 1 non-science professor) are dated from 2020 but 2 other letters (One from where I did volunteer work for a few years at a hospice, and another from being a research assistant at my undergrad institution) are dated from 2018, will it look bad? I know medical school admissions committees want to see the most recent letters of recommendation but I don’t want to keep reaching out to the same people over and over again asking for new letters since it's not my first time applying. Also, I also have a letter of recommendation from a physician I shadowed but it’s dated from 2016 so I’m thinking I can no longer use that letter. Thoughts? Thank you.
 

gonnif

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If I’m submitting letters of recommendation and 3 of them ( 2 science professors, and 1 non-science professor) are dated from 2020 but 2 other letters (One from where I did volunteer work for a few years at a hospice, and another from being a research assistant at my undergrad institution) are dated from 2018, will it look bad? I know medical school admissions committees want to see the most recent letters of recommendation but I don’t want to keep reaching out to the same people over and over again asking for new letters since it's not my first time applying. Also, I also have a letter of recommendation from a physician I shadowed but it’s dated from 2016 so I’m thinking I can no longer use that letter. Thoughts? Thank you.
Physician shadowing letters have the least impact on an adcom and having from from 4 years ago will make them ask, what have you done lately. The other two older letters are secondary and I dont think will matter much being date 2 years ago
 
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gonnif

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Hi, I worked closely with a postdoc in a lab for two years. We completed a project that is now published. He knows me well, better than the PI does, and he has agreed to write me a LOR. The post-doc is now a faculty member at a school.
I realize that many would suggest getting a letter co-written, or at least co-signed, by the PI. For whatever reason, when I told him about this, he said he'd never heard of such a thing, and did not want my PI to cosign the letter. I think he would write me a much better letter than my PI would because he knows me better. Would this be an issue if I didn't get the letter cosigned by my PI? I'll probably still list my PI as the contact person on my AMCAS. If I can list multiple contact people, I'll list both my PI and the postdoc.
Just get the Post-Doc letter
 

catsandscrubs

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Hi! I'm obtaining a committee letter from my school, and they've offered to attach additional letters if I have my recommenders send their letters to the committee. I was planning on submitting my other letters separately, as I may wish to customize which schools receive certain letters. My question is, am I able to send both a committee letter and additional individual letters to schools? Or do I only have the option to send a committee letter OR individual letters? Would it be in my best interest to have the committee attach my additional letters, although I will not be able to choose which letters go to which school? Thanks!
 

gonnif

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Hi! I'm obtaining a committee letter from my school, and they've offered to attach additional letters if I have my recommenders send their letters to the committee. I was planning on submitting my other letters separately, as I may wish to customize which schools receive certain letters. My question is, am I able to send both a committee letter and additional individual letters to schools? Or do I only have the option to send a committee letter OR individual letters? Would it be in my best interest to have the committee attach my additional letters, although I will not be able to choose which letters go to which school? Thanks!
When you send a committee letter and additional individual letters, depending on the school it cancould present issues
1) Which requirement are you fulfilling? Most systems have a check off for A) Committee/Packet or B) Individual. So if the committee letter shows up first, they could check off that requirement, your application is considered complete and it goes off for eval and review. They may or may not read any additional letters, depending on how they process
2) You can have the opposite issue as well. Lets suppose an individual letter shows up first. Now they check off this the requirement you are fulfilling. The second letter that shows is the committee letter but that is marked as second individual letter. Now we wait for the third letter to show up to fulfill minimum LOR/LOE.
3) If your committee attaches additional outside letters and notes that in their eval, then the letters will likely be taken into account

I would opt for all letters as part of committee
 
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gonnif

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I was wondering if faculty letter writers have to explicitly state which course they taught us in. I was a TA for some of my letter writers after taking a course from them, but I'm not sure if they will mention me in the class, since our relationship was closer when I was a TA. Will this still count as "faculty who have taught you in a course"?
It would help if they say they taught you in a class and most will. low risk concern
 
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It appears that one of my letter writers submitted two letters under his letter ID #. I got two emails, one last night and one this morning, saying they received his letter. I'm going to ask him about it, but if he uploaded a second one to correct a mistake would it be best to just make him a new letter ID where that he can upload just the correct letter, so schools wouldn't get two copies?
 

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It appears that one of my letter writers submitted two letters under his letter ID #. I got two emails, one last night and one this morning, saying they received his letter. I'm going to ask him about it, but if he uploaded a second one to correct a mistake would it be best to just make him a new letter ID where that he can upload just the correct letter, so schools wouldn't get two copies?
I think its fine to create a new ID # and reload
 
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Perhaps this is a silly question, but I'm confused about the committee letter. A school like Emory will take a committee letter (packet of letters) or 3 individual letters. If my committee letter is composed of 2 letters, am I not fulfilling their minimum requirement? Its confusing because schools don't specify that a committee letter should be composed of exactly X science and Y non-science recs

edit: i ask this because my non-science prof is MIA (worried that she is impacted by COVID-19, her health is frail) and i am not sure how this will impact my ability to apply to certain schools, even though I am getting a committee letter from pre-health
 

gonnif

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Perhaps this is a silly question, but I'm confused about the committee letter. A school like Emory will take a committee letter (packet of letters) or 3 individual letters. If my committee letter is composed of 2 letters, am I not fulfilling their minimum requirement? Its confusing because schools don't specify that a committee letter should be composed of exactly X science and Y non-science recs

edit: i ask this because my non-science prof is MIA (worried that she is impacted by COVID-19, her health is frail) and i am not sure how this will impact my ability to apply to certain schools, even though I am getting a committee letter from pre-health
Lets clear this up since applicants confuse it all the time: You follow one of the following

If you are using a committee letter, the requirements are set by the undergraduate institution
OR
If you are sending in individual letters, the requirements are set by each medical school

You do not need to follow the requirements for individual letters if you are using a committee letter. For a committee letter you follow the policy of your own undergraduate institution
 
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jordij94

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Hi @gonnif I have a few questions, thank you in advance!:
1) Would a Psychological Statistics LOR count as a science letter? I am applying a third time if my WLs don't work out and I was devastated to find out that one of my chemistry LORs that I've sent to all schools the past two cycles had the wrong first name in parts of the letter from 2018. If the stats letter doesn't count as a science LOR, would it be fishy from an adcom's perspective if I have the chemistry professor correct my name and update the date in his LOR since it appears to be a stock letter?
2) I was a CRC for the past year and plan on getting a LOR from the sub-I who is a NP since I worked with her 99% of the time. Should I ask her to have the letter cosigned by the PI or is it okay if it's just from her?
 
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Hi @gonnif I have a few questions, thank you in advance!:
1) Would a Psychological Statistics LOR count as a science letter? I am applying a third time if my WLs don't work out and I was devastated to find out that one of my chemistry LORs that I've sent to all schools the past two cycles had the wrong first name in parts of the letter from 2018. If the stats letter doesn't count as a science LOR, would it be fishy from an adcom's perspective if I have the chemistry professor correct my name and update the date in his LOR since it appears to be a stock letter?
2) I was a CRC for the past year and plan on getting a LOR from the sub-I who is a NP since I worked with her 99% of the time. Should I ask her to have the letter cosigned by the PI or is it okay if it's just from her?
F
 

aristrutz523

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Hi all! Question: I gathered my letters from 2016 - 2018 when I thought I would be applying. However, now I just found out that my former PI signed his letter in a signature font that Interfolio doesn't consider "verified"... do I need to go back to him, or do I submit it like that since he *did* write it, he *kind of* signed it and his contact information is attached anyway? I'm just not sure he's going to go into the lab to pull up my letter of recommendation from his desktop computer in the middle of a pandemic. Ugh. :grumpy:
 

gonnif

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Hi @gonnif I have a few questions, thank you in advance!:
1) Would a Psychological Statistics LOR count as a science letter? I am applying a third time if my WLs don't work out and I was devastated to find out that one of my chemistry LORs that I've sent to all schools the past two cycles had the wrong first name in parts of the letter from 2018. If the stats letter doesn't count as a science LOR, would it be fishy from an adcom's perspective if I have the chemistry professor correct my name and update the date in his LOR since it appears to be a stock letter?
for some schools, adcoms, and individual evaluators it might be acceptable, but I would say at most places it would be weak at best. It is both psychology and math; The BCPM designation by AMCAS is not science in terms of LOR, particularly math, particularly psychology. If the chem professor hasnt uploaded the letter THIS CYCLE, then change the name and upload. else Just leave it

2) I was a CRC for the past year and plan on getting a LOR from the sub-I who is a NP since I worked with her 99% of the time. Should I ask her to have the letter cosigned by the PI or is it okay if it's just from her?
Ask for cosign, though this is letter as paid employment (I presume) and therefore the NP is writing as job supervisor and that is fine
 
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gonnif

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Hi all! Question: I gathered my letters from 2016 - 2018 when I thought I would be applying. However, now I just found out that my former PI signed his letter in a signature font that Interfolio doesn't consider "verified"... do I need to go back to him, or do I submit it like that since he *did* write it, he *kind of* signed it and his contact information is attached anyway? I'm just not sure he's going to go into the lab to pull up my letter of recommendation from his desktop computer in the middle of a pandemic. Ugh. :grumpy:
you need to go to back to him and get it signed. Pulling it up at home wont be an issue as I am sure the PI has a scanner at home. Have the PI print the letter actually sign it, and rescan it back in. Failure to have a verified signature will cause issues at some schools
 

Soonay

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Hello!
Question: When I choose "Committee Letter" in the Add LOR section in AMCAS, it also asks me for the primary contact/author's first name, last name, and address. What should I put if the author is the NYU Pre-health Committee?
 

gonnif

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Hello!
Question: When I choose "Committee Letter" in the Add LOR section in AMCAS, it also asks me for the primary contact/author's first name, last name, and address. What should I put if the author is the NYU Pre-health Committee?
Your pre health advisor is fine
 

Soonay

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Your pre health advisor is fine
Nevermind, my school website has specific instructions for this entry! Thank you though :)
 

jordij94

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Hi @gonnif! If I am applying a third time, would you recommend adding a new LOR from my sub-I I worked with this year to keep my application "fresh"? This would likely be in place of a much stronger LOR from a manager I did nonclinical work under for 2 years but have used his letter for the past 2 cycles. The sub-I LOR will be the only new LOR to my app this year.
 

gonnif

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Hi @gonnif! If I am applying a third time, would you recommend adding a new LOR from my sub-I I worked with this year to keep my application "fresh"? This would likely be in place of a much stronger LOR from a manager I did nonclinical work under for 2 years but have used his letter for the past 2 cycles. The sub-I LOR will be the only new LOR to my app this year.
Much more importantly than letters, have you identified weakness in your previous app and how you applied to show freshness
 
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jordij94

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Much more importantly than letters, have you identified weakness in your previous app and how you applied to show freshness
- Based off of adcom feedback, I will be retaking the MCAT (unbalanced 513 as CA ORM) in a month.
- I briefly wrote about shadowing as an MA and hospital volunteer and had no other shadowing in past apps, but I will subtract hours from these original two activities and separately list them in a shadowing box along with 20 new hours of shadowing.
- I am considering signing up for a BCPM grad course since I've been out of school for >2years although I have a 3.9sGPA.
- I was also advised to get more research experience so I worked this past year at a contracted org as a CRC--the only issue is the work environment is a bit toxic and they don't want me to leave for med school so I only have the sub-I who is an NP to write a LOR which I don't think is as strong as my other LORs. Is it ill advised to not use this "weaker" but newer LOR and to not make this activity MM if I talk about it in my PS? If so, I will not have any new LORs between my second and third app.
 
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this program manager who wrote one of my LoRs is no longer with the program. i've contacted the new staff and let them know, and they said they're fine with me using their contact info for my activities section. would it be ok to use their contact info for the LoR submission too (they know I have an LoR from the previous program manager), or would this look weird?
 

gonnif

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this program manager who wrote one of my LoRs is no longer with the program. i've contacted the new staff and let them know, and they said they're fine with me using their contact info for my activities section. would it be ok to use their contact info for the LoR submission too (they know I have an LoR from the previous program manager), or would this look weird?
Its fine...
 
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jordij94

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Hi @gonnif, if I am applying a third time is it okay to use the same mix of 8 letters from my last cycle? Or is it better to replace an old letter with a newer but weaker letter? The only new EC change to my app is a CRC job but I can only get a LOR from an NP sub-I and I am certain that this letter will be weaker than the one it would replace.
 
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