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Is It True Reference Letters Are Worth 20%? Concerned About Generic Letters...


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Hi all! So I heard that reference letters are weighed quite heavily, around 20% of an applicant's file review score. Is this true? And if so, I'm concerned that it may negatively impact my chances. I have plenty of research experience and solid extracurriculars, high GPA, but in terms of my letters, I am concerned that my lab demonstrator and professors had weaker letters, as they are not native English speakers. I chose my references based on how well they knew me and how appropriate they were, not necessarily their writing ability. Now I am very concerned that my letters may be an obstacles, which is not fair at all when we can't really control that. :( And even after interview I heard the letters are still weighed a lot...  :confused:

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1) chill

 

2) chill some more

 

3) yes they are highly weighted but they have a tight distribution meaning pretty much everyone gets the same score for their letters. letters are kind of a remnant of the old system where powerful people would write something on your behalf and that would get you in. I honestly see a day where they are gone completely because they are practically useless as everyone will have good letters.

 

I promise you that you are not the only person with letters from a person whose first language is not English. Fortunately it is not a grammar contest and on the flip side they will possibly be read by someone whose first language is not English.

 

The old adage is that letters can't help you they can only hurt you. They may contain red flags about your character or performance but that will be on you and who you decide to write them, not the native language or writing skills of the person providing them. 

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1) chill

 

2) chill some more

 

3) yes they are highly weighted but they have a tight distribution meaning pretty much everyone gets the same score for their letters. letters are kind of a remnant of the old system where powerful people would write something on your behalf and that would get you in. I honestly see a day where they are gone completely because they are practically useless as everyone will have good letters.

 

I promise you that you are not the only person with letters from a person whose first language is not English. Fortunately it is not a grammar contest and on the flip side they will possibly be read by someone whose first language is not English.

 

The old adage is that letters can't help you they can only hurt you. They may contain red flags about your character or performance but that will be on you and who you decide to write them, not the native language or writing skills of the person providing them. 

Thanks for your response! Hahah sorry, I'm trying to relax.  :(

 

How do you know the distribution is tight? I am not worried about red flags in the letters, and I know they will be written from the heart, but I am mostly just worried that they are not on par with people who have amazing letters with tons of specific examples  (or even those folks who write their own letters of reference and get the prof to sign it...  :mad: ), so I thought it would be a bigger distribution. I agree 100% that these are relic, and almost every school is moving away from them but 20% can still be dealbreakers on your application, even before or after the interview.

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To be 100% honest i can't speak with total certainty about U of T because I have never seen their published scores for reference letter grading. I can speak about other schools and would assume that U of T does not vary that much as it is the same applicant pool and same letters (OMSAS) that they are receiving. I would tend to think that U of T would put less emphasis on letters as they receive the most applications and are likely unable to grade them as thoroughly.

 

Been doing this for many years and never came across someone who was held back by a letter, it is almost always 75% GPA, 10% MCAT, 14% ECs, 1% red flagged because they are a psycho. The letters almost always reflect the caliber of candidate. No matter how poorly or well written they are it won't make as much of a difference. The variability comes from who wrote the letter. So s PhD or masters supervisor has a much more powerful letter than an undergrad lab student or a professor from a course someone took. A university administrator trumps a minor league hockey coach. But again the differences are minor. 

 

GL.

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To be 100% honest i can't speak with total certainty about U of T because I have never seen their published scores for reference letter grading. I can speak about other schools and would assume that U of T does not vary that much as it is the same applicant pool and same letters (OMSAS) that they are receiving. I would tend to think that U of T would put less emphasis on letters as they receive the most applications and are likely unable to grade them as thoroughly.

 

Been doing this for many years and never came across someone who was held back by a letter, it is almost always 75% GPA, 10% MCAT, 14% ECs, 1% red flagged because they are a psycho. The letters almost always reflect the caliber of candidate. No matter how poorly or well written they are it won't make as much of a difference. The variability comes from who wrote the letter. So s PhD or masters supervisor has a much more powerful letter than an undergrad lab student or a professor from a course someone took. A university administrator trumps a minor league hockey coach. But again the differences are minor. 

 

GL.

Thanks for taking the time to respond, I feel better about the process now :) 

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To be 100% honest i can't speak with total certainty about U of T because I have never seen their published scores for reference letter grading. I can speak about other schools and would assume that U of T does not vary that much as it is the same applicant pool and same letters (OMSAS) that they are receiving. I would tend to think that U of T would put less emphasis on letters as they receive the most applications and are likely unable to grade them as thoroughly.

 

Been doing this for many years and never came across someone who was held back by a letter, it is almost always 75% GPA, 10% MCAT, 14% ECs, 1% red flagged because they are a psycho. 

 

Can I ask what school follows this formula? Last I heard U of T did 60% GPA, 10% essays, 9% ABS and 21% letters. 

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If its any reassurance to you, I know 3 people who have had weak references (1 due to a generic letter, 2 from highschool teachers which had previously been a basis of rejection for not knowing the applicant well - I recall reading this in a UofT admissions document for common reasons for rejection but cant seem to find it again for citation), 2 were accepted and 1 got an interview (within the last 2 years). I have a weak letter as well so hearing that made me feel a lot better. Secondly, that formula is from a while back and they might have changed the way they value references. Even if the formula didn't change, as long as you have a good GPA, ECs, and worked hard on your essay to control other aspects of the weighing, you should be fine. 

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If its any reassurance to you, I know 3 people who have had weak references (1 due to a generic letter, 2 from highschool teachers which had previously been a basis of rejection for not knowing the applicant well - I recall reading this in a UofT admissions document for common reasons for rejection but cant seem to find it again for citation), 2 were accepted and 1 got an interview (within the last 2 years). I have a weak letter as well so hearing that made me feel a lot better. Secondly, that formula is from a while back and they might have changed the way they value references. Even if the formula didn't change, as long as you have a good GPA, ECs, and worked hard on your essay to control other aspects of the weighing, you should be fine. 

How do they say that the reference doesn't know the applicant well enough?

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How do they say that the reference doesn't know the applicant well enough?

From what I remember, the case was that the applicant was in fourth year. They reason that the applicant has been out of high school for 3 years, and a reference from too far back would not properly represent the applicant's character since their entry into university. This was one that stuck out to me as a future reminder of "what not to do when I apply", but it doesn't seem valid anymore. Does anyone else remember reading this document? It was entitled something along the lines of "common reasons for rejection", talked about several case scenarios in which an applicant was rejected, and was on the admissions page around four years back? :(

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