I'm currently enrolled in a university program and looking to switch. I know the program I'm looking to switch into is notoriously competitive, and I'm looking to improve my chances in any way I can. I have a few profs who I know quite well and I think would write good letters of recommendation for me. That being said, is it appropriate to submit multiple letters of recommendation?

My inclination to submit so much more than is required is because the application process caters to high school students rather than university students, on top of the already competitive nature of applications.

A letter of recommendation is not required for the application, but I know it will improve my standing significantly. So I assumed having multiple really good ones would put me even higher up. On the other hand, it could also seem like I'm reaching for praise, especially when no letter of recommendation is technically required. I may be completely misinterpreting the purpose of a reference letter.

In addition to that, if the answer to the above question is that only one letter of recommendation is necessary at most, then is it ethical to ask multiple profs to write letters anyways and then choose the "best one"? My gut reaction is that this is very unethical, as it is wasting the time of the profs, especially after reading this question, but I thought I'd ask it in this context anyways since it might be slightly different.

  • 1
    You can ask for multiple people to write letters for you, but you will not be able to compare them. If you're in the USA (and it sounds like you are) I believe the applicant usually has to waive their right to read their reference letters. See here for more info: wiselikeus.com/collegewise/2010/09/… Feb 24, 2018 at 19:43
  • An applicant need not waive the right to see letters of recommendation. On the other hand, I need not write such letters, either, and I use that waiver in my decision because I believe institutions give more weight to confidential recommendations. (If I can't write a good recommendation, I decline, but I still want it to be confidential.)
    – Bob Brown
    Feb 25, 2018 at 4:29

1 Answer 1


You should submit what is asked and nothing more. If they ask for 3 LORs, submit 3, not 5 or 7. If they don't want any at all, don't waste everyone's time submitting any.

  • If, however, you know someone who can give your application a personal boost outside the application process, go for it. I've done that at my own institution and at my alma mater. "I understand that Ms. X has applied to our program. We should admit her. If you have questions, let me know."
    – Bob Brown
    Feb 25, 2018 at 4:34

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