I am applying to several grad schools in the US for a PhD in math and most of them require three letters of recommendation. None of them mention that only three letters or no more than three letters are to be submitted. I have specifically emailed them to figure out if they will randomly pick three letters from the five that I plan to submit and discard the rest and so far two have confirmed that I can submit more than three and all will be reviewed. This, combined with the fact that they allow you to mention more than three referees in the online application, rather than limit it to just three makes me wonder if it would be acceptable for me to submit five referee names.

While I have requested three of my senior professors with whom I have had the most interaction, for the letters, I also have two younger professors who have agreed to submit their letters for my application. I have communicated with them a lot regarding my solutions to mathematics problems and for discussing other ideas in my field of interest, sometimes several times a day through messaging apps and due to this I believe they would have something distinctively valuable to say about my abilities and have a different perspective than the senior professors. My masters did not have a thesis component and it is difficult to obtain good research experience in Algebraic Topology in my country so these letters are the closest I have as evidence of research potential. Also one of those senior professors had missed one of my letter deadlines before so he might miss a few this time around as well, in which case the extra letters could help. While it is in general discouraged to try to compensate for weaknesses in one area of your application with excess material in another area, could it help in my specific case?

Similar: Submitting more than three letters of recommendation to a math PhD program

  • 2
    If three is the minimum, 5 is a great idea (especially if they don't all arrive on time), 7 is getting to be a bit much, and 20 is likely to be disqualifying.
    – Ben Voigt
    Nov 2 at 21:33
  • @BenVoigt Thanks. I just wanted to confirm that I am correctly interpreting require three to mean at least three in this context.
    – A_G
    Nov 3 at 7:54


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