how many references?

I know you’re supposed to have at min 2 science and 1 other academic…and then research if you have it…is having a 5th overkill? My boss wants to write me one (I’ve worked for her for 10 years), but is this too much?

Also, when having a prof co-sign for a TA, what is the protocol? Do they just need to sign it or should they write a cover letter to go with it?


I don’t know if having a fifth is overkill, especially if one or two of them might give a non-academic view of you. I had five letters. Of course, I only had one school that I sent all five letter to. All of the rest only wanted three letters. I don’t think I would go with any more than five, though.

My school’s advisement office uses a composite rec, usually drawn from 4 or 5 letters (which they also send). With that in mind, I’d expect that 5 may not be overkill.

That said, this line of thought is making me rethink their recommendation that I get a 6th .

Thanks! I’ll go for it ;).

I have to say that in the end I had about 6 LOR. I am 29 and have had non-direct route to medicine so that letter for my undergrad professors would not suffice and considering it had been nearly 10 years since they taught me would not really capture who I am. Plus, at the time they knew me I was trying to be a lawyer, not a doctor. So I did get my one requisite letter from an undergrad professor who knew me when. Interesting story about that one…I went to large commuter undergrad with not real sense of school spirit or getting to know your professors. I would say I only had one professor who knew me well enough to write a letter on my behalf and he had tragically passed away…so I had to use the letter he wrote for my entrance to law school with a disclaimer explaining why. Then I had two letters from physical science professors (one lab and one lecturer)…and one letter from my natural sciences professor. Plus, I had a letter from my research gap year…Many of these letters were sent to my premed advisor who wrote a committee letter with snippets from each letter and all letters were attached. Finally, the premed committe wrote the cover letter.

For a particular school, I sent a letter from a professor who knew me. And my post-bacc program as advised me to get letters from the partner I worked with at the law firm…as well as, my bioethics professors from my master’s degree program…both of those recommenders were too difficult to get them to come through and decided not to wait on the letters so I would have had about 10 in the end.

Even with my 5-6 letters, I never had a school complain and it seemed at my interviews that they had read each one. If they didn’t want to read them, they didn’t have to…but I just didn’t feel that my life and background fit neatly into 3 letters that might be enough for the 22 year old straight out of undergrad.

Don’t send letters for the sake of sending more letters, but try to send a letter representing each pertinent part of your life and your journey/path to medicine. I wouldn’t worry about overkill as long as each letter writer knows you well and personally speak to your ability to be a good doctor, not a form letter.