The much-hyped LORs (letters of recommendation) are hyped for a reason. They’re hardly a second-tier piece of the medical school application puzzle. In fact, many a pre-med has been undone by an unflattering letter from a professor or previous boss. Several of our posts are adamant about the fact that your letters should be “golden,” and that means they should be cleanly targeted to nail the bullseye: members of the adcom (admissions committee).
If you’ve received one rejection and are in the pipeline the second time around, my advice is the same: think long and hard about who wrote those letters the first time when deciding whether to re-submit the same LORs. Though the AAMC rules prevent you from reviewing them, you probably have a sense of what the LOR writer might have said from your past relationship and interaction.
Should I re-submit the same LORs again?
This question is easy, and hard to answer. Since you didn’t see the first set of letters, there’s no way to know how well written they were, or how they were perceived by the adcoms. But assuming you have a high degree of confidence in the quality of relationships you developed with each LOR writer, with no ambivalence about whether or not they represented you well, then by all means, re-submit the same LORs.
Here’s why you should re-submit the same LORs:
—You won’t necessarily have the same reviewers the second time around. The fact that the letters are dated the year past could be a bit of a deterrent, but it’s the content that matters.
—You may not be applying to the same schools this time around. In fact, I’d recommend that you review your list and revise it on the second go-round. Join the MSAR for $28 and you can learn the matriculants’ exact scores at every school and better target the schools most likely to want you.
—You’re confident beyond question that the letters you submitted in Round One are indeed “golden.”
—The timing doesn’t allow it. By the time you’re rejected and the final door closes for med school acceptance, it’s only a month or two from the opening date for new applications through AAMC. Not enough time to generate another great letter.
However, if any of the following apply, you may not want to re-submit the same LORs:
—You have a sneaky suspicion that you may not have gotten the kind of recommendation you were seeking. I know a guy who was rejected from his first choice school, solely on the basis of a lousy LOR. The thing is, he didn’t learn this for a year or so, after long after he had been admitted elsewhere. He thought he was turning this all-important task over to a fan, but the recommendation was shallow and less than full-throated.
—You’ve gotten some relevant shadowing, volunteering or post-bacc work done in the intervening time, or had some significant experience with one or more of the references, that would allow him/her to expand and improve on the first letter.
—You make new relationships in the year gap that are more likely to result in truly “golden” LORs.
—You feel you could have helped one or more LOR writer(s) represent you better. This may include giving them a “cheat sheet” with details about your accomplishments, interests and personal attributes. The same letter writer may be happy to write a new one this level of detail.
—The letter is more than one year old.
Are there hard and fast rules about repeat LORs?
So, are there rules about whether to re-submit the same LORs in a new application packet? Nope. In fact, a cursory call to several schools yielded the same response: there’s no upside or downside to one choice or the other (except the factors mentioned above). The bottom line is that the letters should sell you to the adcoms in the best way possible. Your confidence level should be sky-high that they did.
Review your packet. Have someone help you assess the quality of all parts of it. How’s your personal statement? Does it need reworking? Check out our posts here and here about things to do and not to do when writing your personal statement.
Were you comprehensive about recording all of your shadowing/ volunteering/ research hours?
If you re-took the MCAT or took courses over to reflect a better score, were those submitted with your new application?
If so, you’re well on your way. Good luck, and good LORs, lol!
Here are a few other posts you may want to check out:
—How many letters of recommendation should I submit?
—What’s a good GPA/MCAT combo for acceptance to medical school?
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