Should I prioritize quality over quantity for letters of recommendation?

WeakThought

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Hi everyone.

I was looking for some extra feedback on my current situation.

For schools that require a minimum of 3 letters, I'm planning on submitting 3 "very strong" letters. The problem is that I'm still waiting for one of these "very strong" letters to come in. I also have 2 "strong" letters available as of right now.

Question 1:

For the schools that require 3 letters MAXIMUM, I'm planning on submitting my 2 "very strong" letters right now, and adding in my 3rd "very strong" letter when it comes in. I'm just so convinced that this 3rd letters is going to be outstanding that I'm willing to wait a little longer as I've been following up with this professor regularly, but I'm really stressed out that he hasn't submitted it yet. Is it okay for me to waiting for him, and how much longer should I wait? Keep in mind that I also have 2 "strong" letters that are ready to go right now. I can easily submit 1 of these "strong" letters if the delay is starting to hurt my application, but I just don't know when this time would be. What do you think I should do?



Question 2:

For schools that require a MINIMUM of 3 letters, I'm planning on submitting my 2 "very strong" letters that I have available right now. Once I get that 3rd pending "very strong" letter in, I'll submit that as well. My question is: are these 3 "very strong" letters sufficient for schools that require a MINIMUM of 3 letters. Or should I go ahead and submit my full set of 5 letters? Another possibility is for me to submit 3 letters I have right now, just to be marked complete at these schools, and then submit that pending letter when it comes in. What do you think I should do?
 
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Question 1: It's okay to wait a little longer, but I would contact your letter writer and see if they're going to finish it soon or if you should just go ahead with what you have. If by the time October rolls around they still haven't submitted, I'd move on.

Question 2: Difficult to answer without knowing specific school requirements and what kinds of letters you have (science faculty, lab coordinator, volunteer lead, etc.)
 

Goro

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Hi everyone.

I was looking for some extra feedback on my current situation.

For schools that require a minimum of 3 letters, I'm planning on submitting 3 "very strong" letters. The problem is that I'm still waiting for one of these "very strong" letters to come in. I also have 2 "strong" letters available as of right now.

Question 1:

For the schools that require 3 letters MAXIMUM, I'm planning on submitting my 2 "very strong" letters right now, and adding in my 3rd "very strong" letter when it comes in. I'm just so convinced that this 3rd letters is going to be outstanding that I'm willing to wait a little longer as I've been following up with this professor regularly, but I'm really stressed out that he hasn't submitted it yet. Is it okay for me to waiting for him, and how much longer should I wait? Keep in mind that I also have 2 "strong" letters that are ready to go right now. I can easily submit 1 of these "strong" letters if the delay is starting to hurt my application, but I just don't know when this time would be. What do you think I should do?



Question 2:

For schools that require a MINIMUM of 3 letters, I'm planning on submitting my 2 "very strong" letters that I have available right now. Once I get that 3rd pending "very strong" letter in, I'll submit that as well. My question is: are these 3 "very strong" letters sufficient for schools that require a MINIMUM of 3 letters. Or should I go ahead and submit my full set of 5 letters? Another possibility is for me to submit 3 letters I have right now, just to be marked complete at these schools, and then submit that pending letter when it comes in. What do you think I should do?
As someone who has to read the damn things, I can assure you that more is not better.
 
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Goro

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@Goro : is not using a letter from a most meaningful (that was very significant) okay? i know that the person likes me, just that they're not the best letter "writer" from my past experience and i don't want it to unintentionally give off the wrong vibes. other letters i'm submitting i'm 100% sure are either strong or extremely strong
Honestly about 90% of letters say the same thing. Maybe 5% are truly exceptional
 

WeakThought

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Dec 9, 2017
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Question 1: It's okay to wait a little longer, but I would contact your letter writer and see if they're going to finish it soon or if you should just go ahead with what you have. If by the time October rolls around they still haven't submitted, I'd move on.

Question 2: Difficult to answer without knowing specific school requirements and what kinds of letters you have (science faculty, lab coordinator, volunteer lead, etc.)
Question 1:
He keeps saying he's working on it, and I've asked him since June. I've visited him in his online office hours and emailed him. I just don't know how else to ask him anymore. It literally blows my mind that someone I've had such a personal and professional relationship with is taking so long. I'm guessing he's spending a lot of time on it to make sure it's an outstanding letter. He is a science professor at my post-bac program but he is also my advisor, so he has read my whole application and knows me both inside and outside the classroom. He is also one of the directors in the post-bac program I'm in, and is in charge of writing committee letters for students. The directors are definitely behind schedule with the committee letters as I asked one of my friends who told me he just got his committee letter last week and he has also been waiting for it since June.

Question 2:
My "very strong" letters are a non-science letter, physician letter, and science/advisor letter (this last one is still pending).
 

WeakThought

2+ Year Member
Dec 9, 2017
78
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Status
  1. Pre-Medical
Honestly about 90% of letters say the same thing. Maybe 5% are truly exceptional

So if I'm truly convinced that my 3rd "very strong" letter is part of this 5% exceptional category, what date should I give my letter writer until?

Is there anything besides emailing him and visiting him in his online office hours (as I've already been doing this) that I can do to politely tell him to hurry up? I just don't want to seem aggressive or come off as rude. We have a great personal and professional relationship as he is also my advisor in the program, so his letter really means a lot to me, and I'm willing to wait for the schools that only accept a maximum of 3 letters. Is there a certain date at which not having this letter in will start hurting and delaying my application?
 

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Very much so. Letter readers have to sift through hundreds of these. A few solid letters will go a long way versus lots of generic ones.

Kinda apples and oranges, but it reminds me of my old biochem professor who would write at the top of every exam "brevity is the soul of wit, do not convince me you are witless". In this case he was saying give me good stuff, not long stuff.

David D MD - USMLE and MCAT Tutor
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@MedSchoolTutors : do you have any opinions on not using a letter from a MM activity (if you have one from the other 2/3)?
Yeah, as long as 1-2 of your letters come from a most meaningful activity, I think you're fine. Make sure you're ready to answer the question why you didn't get one in the off chance it comes up in an interview. It doesn't need to be anything mind blowing, it just needs to show you've thought of why you chose the specific letters you did.

David D MD - USMLE and MCAT Tutor
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