Ok, it's not the breakthrough I really want, in a fully funded admission, but it feels pretty close to that at this point. My letter of recommendation writer who hadn't finished uploading them to all the schools I'm applying to earlier this week. The day after I wrote my previous post he submitted a couple and then he submitted the rest earlier this week. What this means for me is that some of the schools with Dec 15 deadlines I applied to received that final LoR 1 week late while 3 received it 3 weeks late (!). The schools that had January 1 deadlines would have received that final LoR a couple days late while I have 2 more schools for which the deadline hasn't passed as yet.
I cannot express in words the relief I got when I saw the email confirmation that the LoRs had been submitted. It felt like a huge burden had been lifted off my back. It's one thing to have your application rejected because you weren't good enough, it's another to have it not considered at all because someone you were depending on didn't submit a letter. As it is, I'm not sure if my applications at the 3 schools that received the LoR 3 weeks late will be considered with the other applicants', but the remaining 7 should be (I hope). If I'm able to one day become a professor, I hereby resolve to always be punctual with LoR requests!