Jump to content
Premed 101 Forums

Asking one referee for multiple letters for different specialties vs. general letter?


Recommended Posts

Hi, I'm applying to multiple programs and am wondering how to approach my referees for letters. Is it better to ask a referee for a general letter, or ask them to slightly tailor 2 versions of the letter for both specialties? I asked an OB preceptor to write a letter for me, thinking that I would be using it for 2 non-OB programs. However, now I've decided to also apply to OB and am not sure where to go from here.

Any help appreciated. Thanks!

Link to post
Share on other sites

2 different letters. Each letter should address your skills, experience, and suitability for the specific specialty you are applying for. Both letters can include common elements about your soft qualities (work ethic, interpersonal relationships, problem solving, etc.), but programs will need to see that current staff in that field feel you are a good fit.

Link to post
Share on other sites
19 hours ago, _gettingthere_ said:

Thanks for your input everyone! 

So now I have another question... if I am going to apply for 3 specialties now (since I just decided on OB), I can't ask her to write 1 letter for each because that's too much, right? But would a general letter still work?

Obviously you did not listen to what everyone said above. A general letter is not a good idea. Find other people to write you a letter for the other specialties and use your OB preceptor for an OB letter (and maybe one other one (separate letter) if she really liked you.

Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, robclem21 said:

Obviously you did not listen to what everyone said above. A general letter is not a good idea. Find other people to write you a letter for the other specialties and use your OB preceptor for an OB letter (and maybe one other one (separate letter) if she really liked you.

I think it’s also tougher this year, though. Not sure what school OP is from, but at my school we have fewer electives with the changes from covid. That means fewer opportunities to get a reference letter. It’s difficult already trying to find individual letters for applying to 2 specialties, let alone 3 (that would mean at least 9 different letters... if you have 5 pre-carms electives, that’s a lot of letters). We were also told by a couple staff that it’s poor taste to ask a preceptor for more than one letter. So I understand wanting to look for general letter that could be used for more than one application. It also feels super awkward and uncomfortable to say “hey preceptor in specialty x, I’m applying to your specialty and am wondering if you can write me a reference letter. But by the way I’m also considering and applying to specialty y and would like a letter for that too”. Maybe it’s just me and it’s actually the norm to do that, but I totally empathize with the situation OP is in with our current circumstances this year (and am in a similar situation myself, too!). 
 

What I’ve been doing, OP, is having a mix of general and specialty-specific letters. The general ones have mainly come from specialties that I am not applying to, and my preceptors have been very open to writing those ones (I assume it’s common, as there’s an option on the carms site when sending the request for “no specific discipline”). I know a few residents who have done this also, and it seemed to work well for them. The way I see it is that if they’re commenting on things like your work ethic, rapport with patients, communication and collegiality with the team, these are things that are translatable and important to every program. I personally haven’t asked for a general letter from an elective in the specialties I’m applying to, though - those letters I’ve asked to be specific to that specialty. But I don’t think there’s a single right approach, especially this year. I hope the programs would be a bit more understanding of the circumstances this year too. :)

Link to post
Share on other sites

I understand that this years situation is different, but it's important to keep in mind that not every applicant will be applying to 3 specialties, and they will have letters specific to that specialty that talk about their commitment, dedication, and strengths related to that specific field. Given the choice to interview between 2 candidates, I would pick the applicant with the letter specifically tailored to my speciality, not a generic letter that provides little insight into how that applicant would perform in my specialty (even other physicians don't always understand the nuances and qualities sought by other specialties). General letters are definitely weaker.

I don't think it is necessarily in poor taste to ask a preceptor for 2 letters in my opinion (as this happens all the time), but in that situation it would be important to have insight into your specific relationship with that staff and their willingness to do so before asking. Asking for LORs are always uncomfortable conversations but are necessary to get what you need for CaRMS.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...