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Academic LORs for the nontrad who has been out of school a long time

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by Helen Wheels, Jan 7, 2009.

  1. Helen Wheels

    7+ Year Member

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    I did a search on this because it seems like it should be a common question but I did not find any threads. Anyway, all the schools ask for LORs from faculty who have taught you in a class. I finished full time UG school in 1993. A few years later I decided to pursue med school. I took my pre reqs at community college and finished the last science pre req in 2003. I had to put med school plans on the back burner due to a family member's illness. That issue is now resolved and I will be taking the MCAT in March and applying this June.

    I think it would be nuts for them to want an UG letter from someone who taught me 16+ years ago and really, I am not even sure I remember the instructors names at this point from the community college classes 6+ years ago. I would have wonderful LORs from work - I have worked for two research MDs for the past 8 years. Each of them could write a great letter and so could my direct supervisor, who is an RN.

    I know I should contact the individual med schools and ask for an exception to be made on my LORs and allow work LORs instead.

    Question 1: Do I do this now or after I submit the application?
    Question 2: Has anyone else in a similar situation done this? Are most schools good about granting exceptions on requiring letters from faculty for nontrads?
     
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  3. DrMidlife

    DrMidlife has an opinion
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    I think it would be a big mistake for you to proceed without faculty recommendations. From my experience (45 apps) the typical requirement is 3 faculty letters, >=2 from science professors. So to offer none of these would put you in a vulnerable position. Vulnerable = bad. You can't give them a reason to put you in the rejected pile where 60% of apps go.

    You presumably have 5-6 months before you apply. In your shoes I'd sign up to take at least 2 science classes and a non-science class, at a university, right away. I'd start pestering the professors from day one to form an opinion of me. I'd choose those science classes based on the professor's suitability for a letter: only full-time faculty, no newbies, and hopefully a reputation among students for being approachable. It goes without saying that you'd need to ace these classes and go out of your way to make a positive impression. If you're serious about applying in June '09, that could mean quitting your job and moving to where a good university is, and personally I think you'd better be willing to do it.

    I'd also hit up those professors from 16 years ago and from 6 years ago and see what I can come up with. If you didn't leave an impression, this will be impossible.

    Sorry to be less than supportive here, but I gotta tellya, rejection hurts like ****.
     
  4. Helen Wheels

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    Thanks for your advice, Dr. Midlife. I am planning on applying this year to a select group of schools (not 35, or anything like that) and we'll see how it goes. I am in the process of contacting a few schools to see what they think about not having academic LORs. If things don't work out this year I will have to take classes since it is the obvious thing to do for re-applying and then I will have some academic LORs that are current.

    Anyone else run into the situation of not having recent academic LORs? Seems like this should not be that uncommon among nontrads.
     
  5. IndigoBoy0

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    I haven't run into it yet but I think I will. Although I graduated in 2004, I took only intro chemistry and physics at undergrad and made no impression on a professor to write reccommendatiosn. Additionally, I had to retake orgo I in an evening program, so I probably wouldn't get a good rec there (although maybe I would since I got an A the secon dtime but still not close with the teacher). I have some grad school profs. that could probably write. I think my plan will be to contact the individual schools once I submit the AMCAS application and tell them my situation and see who theyadvise I get letters from.

    How can I request letters from science profs I made no impression on? I mean I got A's in general chem and bio but the classes were large and I didn't do anything special at the time to stick out. Not really sure what I should do either.....Keep me updated.
     
  6. Helen Wheels

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    I took all my science classes at community college from 2000-2003. I decided this morning that I am going to start trying to contact some of these profs and see if they would be willing to write a letter. I know they will be very generic letters (I did get A's in these classes but heck it was 6-10 years ago!). But I have been thinking that if I don't have these letters it will not be looked upon favorably. I will also have letters from my PI's which will clearly be more valuable than the science class letters. We'll see how it goes with contacting old science profs. It looks like there are only two instructors still there out of the seven different instructors that I had. I guess there is a lot of turnover at a cc. I will have to go back even further to some grad classes in sociology to get a non-science letter, we are talking 1995 here!

    I emailed one med school about them possibly making exceptions for requiring letters from course instructors and they said they do occasionally make exceptions but the Executive Director has to approve this. I don't know if I want to stand out in this way! :(
     
  7. mars1

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    I am in the same boat. I finished grad school back in 1996. Since then I've gone back and did some pre-reqs at the local U as non-degree seeking student. While applying last year (and didn't get in, sorry to say) I ended up deciding not to submit academic letters, my rationale was:
    1. there is no way my profs from 12 years ago could write convincing *personal* LOR; it was worried that it would feel either fake or too impersonal and thus will do more harm than good
    2. more recent pre-req classes I took weren't part of the degree and thus same problems as #1 apply
    3. my GPA is good (> 3.8), thus presumably it stays something about my academic background
    4. having grad degree helps, I think
    4. my recommendations from work are from biomed engineering and applied research field; while not exactly academia it is quite close to it

    When applying I talked to admission folks where I applied about it and sent separate explanation letters. For what it is worth, after not getting in the feedback I got was not related to my LORs, they were fine.

    While I do agree that having them *is* important and highly preferable, having mediocre impersonal academic LOR is worse than having none. IMHO, the idea is to provide them with someone who can personally speak to your academic potential. Hope this helps.
     

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