“Should I send three ophthalmology-focused letters of recommendation with my application or should I send 2 letters from ophthalmologists and 1 letter from a non-ophthalmologist?”
Until recently I had not even considered sending three ophtho letters vs. two ophtho letters and an “additional” letter. As I prepared my application, I tried to follow as closely as possible the SF Match Instructions, which reads,
“Three (3) ORIGINAL letters of reference are required for review by the programs. No more, no less. It is recommended that residency applicants provide one letter from a core rotation.”
While it appears that it is possible and acceptable for applicants to send three ophtho letters, I would actually propose that the majority of applicants send two ophtho letters and a non-ophtho letter from a core rotation. Perhaps a program director or other knowledgeable colleague that has gone through applications could weigh in on whether the majority of applicants send 2 versus 3 ophtho letters. At the end of the day it probably doesn’t matter either way, but as I said, I hadn’t even considered sending 3 ophtho letters until just recently.
It may seem overly analytical and borderline OCD, but when making the decision of sending two ophtho and 1 other vs. 3 ophtho letters, take a step back and assess your own application. Did you have several honors in your core rotations during your third year i.e. medicine, surgery, etc. or did you perhaps have few/no honors in these rotations. Why do I think this matters? Well, if you are going to send three ophtho letters, then hopefully your clerkship grades will speak to your strong performance in the core rotations. Otherwise, you may get questions in interviews as to why you didn’t get a letter from a core rotation but instead loaded up on ophtho letters. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I can think of several interviewers by name that would have actually found pleasure harassing me during interviews if I were an applicant that had three ophtho letters AND had not performed well on clerkships. A handful of interviewers will look for a potential weakness in your application and challenge you on it just to test you. Not saying sending three is bad, but just think about it and be sure that it doesn’t appear you are hiding a weakness in medicine/surgery or other core rotations. Again, while it appears that several colleagues sent three ophtho letters and found this approach to be quite successful, I would personally err on the side of being conservative and just following the instructions in the SF Match Instructions as I cited previously.
1. You can apparently send 3 ophtho letters, though 2 and 1 is the official recommendation from the SF Match.
Are you wondering how to avoid having your residency letters intended for SF Match incorrectly sent to ERAS and your internship letters of recommendation incorrectly sent to the SF Match? If so, click here to read how to avoid such letter confusion.