Letters of Recommendations are opportunities for other people to vouch for you.
LORs are another important component of your medical school application. Like the personal statement, LORs can provide the unique opportunity to display non-academic qualities of an applicant or present somebody to the admissions committee in ways that can’t be expressed through GPA, MCAT, and numbers. Thus, it’s absolutely vital that you provide solid LORs to the medical schools that you will apply to. After speaking with counselors, students, and faculty members who have worked with admissions in the past, the importance of LORs varies depending on who you ask. Some say that the LORs can really make someone stand out from the crowd whereas others say that the LORs are mainly used to screen for applicants who have LORs with negative comments or that LORs are simply used to make sure that nothing of concern is mentioned. Regardless of the true impact of LORs, it makes logical sense to put out the best LORs you can get. A good LOR can only help you, a great LOR will most certainly benefit you, and a bad LOR will undeniably hurt you.
How many LORs do I need?
This is determined by the medical school. Some schools require 3. Some require 5. Some say at least 4 and up to 6. Whatever the number may be, you have to research exactly what the medical school requires.
Typically, a good number of LORs to have is at least 2 from a science professor, 1 from a non-science professor, and extra LORs such as from a doctor, a boss, etc. from an organization or workplace. You will not have to use every LOR for every school (because once again, the requirement is unique to each school) but having these LORs ready at hand will leave you prepared to provide the correct type and number of LORs. Furthermore, having multiple LORs provides you the flexibility to tailor certain LORs to certain schools. For example, a medical school that focuses on community service may appreciate a strong LOR from a volunteer organization you were a part of for a while.
Should I ever send more than the required number of LORs?
In short, no. If a school explicitly states not to provide more than 3 LORs, do not send more than 3 LORs. Follow their instructions exactly and do not send more than what is required. It will not make you look more favorable by not following their instructions, even if you feel that all 5, 6 or 7 of your LORs are impressive.
Guide to the Content of the LOR?
AAMC put out a beautiful guide on what they expect in a LOR. Many professors have a pre-set template for LORs, but it can be helpful to guide them towards including several of the mentioned traits (linked below):
Be on the lookout for the next article which will cover how to obtain strong LORs, even if you attend a large university with over 300 students in a class!