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fourth (extra) LOR?


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Hi All,

I imagine this has been asked before but I couldn't dig up an answer in the archives. Any thoughts on submitting a fourth letter of recommendation? All of my prospective programs only require three. I asked the three professors who knew my work best and could write me the strongest letters (two from my masters program, and my undergrad advisor). However, now that I look at my application package as a whole, it occurs to me that all of my letters will be "the same" - that is, all three writers are very similar scholars, traditional you might say, and will probably be speaking to my abilities in similar kinds of courses (for what it's worth, my field is new testament/early christianity). I have a fourth professor (a visiting scholar in art history/archaeology whose seminar I did very well in) who also said they would be happy to write a letter for me. While I only had one course with this professor, I think they could speak more to my interdisciplinary interests, something I allude to in my statement of purpose but don't really have room to discuss in detail. My impulse is to just submit all four letters. This way, I hope, it will not look like I couldn't find a third writer from my master's program (by including my undergrad advisor), and it also won't look like I couldn't find a third in-field professor with whom I'd done substantial work (by including a one-term visiting scholar in an adjacent field). Are there any cracks in this plan? I scoured the program websites for my schools but didn't find anything about extra letters, although it seems like the online applications will allow me to register a 4th writer. I certainly wouldn't want the extra letter to 'bump' one of the other letters without my knowing it. Your thoughts/experiences are greatly appreciated.

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it occurs to me that all of my letters will be "the same"

I hope, it will not look like I couldn't find a third writer from my master's program

If I were in your shoes, I would replace one of the other letters with the professor who is able to address your interdisciplinary strengths since you say that 3 of the letters would be basically similar. While many programs will still take the additional letter (unless they state otherwise on their sites), the extra letter may not necessarily be appreciated since it may mean more for admission committees to read.

To be honest, they will not be concerned whether all of your references come from your Master's program or not. They will be looking for a comprehensive assessment of your academic potential, part of which includes adhering to guidelines. So do the best three letters. If you still would like to use all of your references, just split them up among the different programs you are applying to. Hope this helps.

Good luck :)

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I'm in a slightly similar position. I graduated from my undergrad university five years ago, so, while I have three strong references from faculty, I want to submit a letter from a work supervisor to give programs an idea of what I've been up to. I contacted the departments at all the programs I'm applying to and asked if they would accept a fourth letter. Most will, but some are very set on the three letter limit. I would not assume they'd accept a fourth letter, check with them. Everyone I've emailed has been extremely helpful and responsive.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've been told by one of the professors currently giving me advice that a fourth letter can be advantageous. I did exactly what you're considering: I got three letters from people in my specialty and a fourth in my secondary field, the one that allowed me to talk credibly about being "interdisciplinary." I'd say, go for the fourth letter.

The other option is to call the programs to which you're applying and just ask whether they would consider a 4th LOR if you had it sent: I imagine that they would give you a fairly straightforward answer.

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