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Bad LOR's?????????

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by badasshairday, Apr 15, 2007.

  1. badasshairday

    badasshairday Vascular and Interventional Radiology 10+ Year Member

    Apr 6, 2007
    Has anyone heard of horror stories in which a professor wrote a negative LOR for an otherwise great candidate?
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  3. armybound

    armybound future urologist. Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Jan 1, 2007
    would probably have one myself if I didn't waive my right to see the evaluation.

    i know for a fact my committee letter wasn't stellar, but I couldn't expect much given the situation I was in.
  4. jochi1543

    jochi1543 President, Gunner Central 2+ Year Member

    Apr 4, 2007
    Alberta, Canada
    Not someone I know personally, but I HAVE heard of at least 2 stories on another forum.

    I honestly think you need to ensure you phrase your request so that the person has lots of opportunities to reject your request. "Would you feel comfortable writing me a letter? Do you feel like you know me well-enough?" gives the person who doesn't quite like you a way to refuse without being rude, as opposed to if you say "Could you write a letter for me?"

    Of course, there also people who are just messed up in the head and who think that it's their life's work to mess with people's lives. My boss, for example, took great pride in telling me that a girl who worked at my job before me keeps asking her for references and she keeps giving her really negative ones. I just confronted her and asked what is her purpose in this, and when she started mumbling some incoherent crap, I just told her that any ethical person would simply politely refuse if they didn't feel like they could give a positive reference.

    Who wants to bet I'll never get a positive reference from HER now, haha.:laugh:

    With those types, you just need to ask around. Ask the TA if s/he ever hears the prof ranting about students, for example - that'd be a very bad sign, obviously.
  5. JackofAllTrades

    JackofAllTrades 2+ Year Member

    Mar 19, 2007
    It's hard to fight that lingering concern. I got some good advice last year, and I'll pass it along. When you contact a professor to ask if he/she will write a letter ask them if they can write a "strong" letter. Or something to that effect. You can say ask if they have time to meet with you, review your CV, etc. I did this in email format, that way you can word your question exactly how you want to.

    I think I said something to the effect of "I have a limited number of letters" blah blah blah.
  6. JackofAllTrades

    JackofAllTrades 2+ Year Member

    Mar 19, 2007
  7. parrotlet


    Feb 26, 2007
    Yes, sabotage occurs.

    Specifically ask if the writer can give "excellent" or "helpfull" LOR's from all writers you ask.
    Better if you can doscument this in yor e-mail requesting the LOR.

    That is the only way you can raise the issue of "malice" or "intent to harm" if you get sabotaged.
  8. LifetimeDoc

    LifetimeDoc EM Attending Physician 10+ Year Member

    Apr 30, 2006
    Well I asked someone at our pre-med office that handles our letters, and they said that it is extremely rare for a negative letter to come across their desk. They say that the majority of the letters say that "we walk on water". :laugh: They wouldn't say anything more than that or give specifics due to the whole confidentiality thing.

    However, I still made sure to ask my letter writers...
    "Would you feel comfortable writing a strong, positive letter of recommendation to medical school for me?".
  9. HumbleMD

    HumbleMD hmmmm... 7+ Year Member

    Sep 22, 2006
    East Coast
    :thumbup: :thumbup: :thumbup:
    Good advice. Always ask for a letter with the caveat that you are requesting a positive one. Look them in the eye, and make sure to give the professor an "out." Also, I'm wondering if people don't have any sense when choosing professors.
  10. Kraazy

    Kraazy 7+ Year Member

    Feb 17, 2007
    I've seen a few posts about bad LORs but in a way I'm confused about how that would happen. It should be pretty obvious if a prof doesn't like you or if you haven't done well in the class. I feel like prof would have to know youpretty well to write either a bad or a good letter. At the very worst, you would get recs from profs who are neutral about you, in which case they would prob make an effort to be positive (while remaining truthful) in the letter. I really don't see how they would intentionally write a bad letter. It's one thing to write a so-so letter, but writing a bad letter is just terrible.
  11. AnEyeLikeMars

    AnEyeLikeMars Member 7+ Year Member

    Dec 2, 2005
    Carrboro, NC
    I'm sure that's rare, but I'm just as sure that it happens. People can be crazy. Some people have mentioned it on this forum, but it hasn't happened to anyone I know. Writing someone a bad LOR is a terrible thing to do...if you can't write a positive one, you should tell the student to look elsewhere. But I bet it still happens.

    I think that what the vast majority of us need to worry about more is the "mediocre" LOR rather than the "spiteful" LOR. You can avoid the mediocre LOR by asking only those who know you well and you believe can write a strong letter (i.e. they have experience and communicate well). Since the vast majority of LORs are stellar, what's stands out is the "good, but not great"
  12. BigRedPremed

    BigRedPremed Senior Member 7+ Year Member

    Jul 20, 2005
    I'm with you. I don't understand how people can misjudge a professor's opinion of them so badly or why a professor would take the time to write a bad LOR instead of just saying "no" to the student. Then again, there are definitely some crazy people out there.
  13. Daydreamer2008

    Daydreamer2008 7+ Year Member

    Jan 19, 2007
    Ya, My grad school advisor, who I got A's in (BOTH) his classses, ignored my e-mail request 2 times, so I decided that the letter would not be good at that point. (his english wasn't that great anyways). I got to read 2 of my letters, but I am still curious to know what the others said.
  14. diosa428

    diosa428 SDN Angel 5+ Year Member

    Feb 24, 2005
    For all of you wondering how someone could end up asking a professor who would write a bad LOR - a girl that went to school with me was really involved in both sports and research. She had practice everyday, so she had to leave the lab at 4, but she was often in the lab at night or on weekends. She wrote a senior thesis and was on some papers that were published. But when it came time to get a letter from her PI, he wrote that she was too "distracted" and had too many things going on because he didn't like that he was splitting her time between research and sports, and I don't think he realized how often she was at the lab when he wasn't around (nights/weekends). Of course, he never really gave her any inkling that he was going to write negative things in her letter. So, it can happen.
  15. moto_za

    moto_za Member 10+ Year Member

    Jan 16, 2006
    Oh man, now i feel like a retard because I emailed a porf i did not know too well asking if he "could write me a strong lor" he did respond after a few days saying that he thinks he will be able to wrtie me a good letter and that i did well in his class and he would like my ps, grades and resume? what do you guys think? am i just being paranoid or no?
  16. AlphaQUp

    AlphaQUp 2+ Year Member

    Nov 15, 2006
    This was for law school not medical school. A professor told us how a girl in his class last semester asked him for a LOR and he wrote her a bad one because he didn't think she was "law school material."

    Whatever that means :rolleyes:
  17. psipsina

    psipsina Senior Member 5+ Year Member

    Jun 24, 2005
    I had this happen to me in highschool. I had 2 courses with the teacher and scored over 100 in both, as in never missed a test question and got extracredit to boot. I have no clue what the guy's problem was but he said I had "dependancy issues" with my mother at the end of a stellar letter. I only found out because my guidance counselor at a new school I went to during my senior year shredded the letter since she knew the actual situation with my mother. My mom is severly mentally ill and I was her caretaker for most of my childhood, and ended up on my own at 17 when her situation got out of control and it became dangerous for me to be with her. Anyway, proffessors can be jerks just like anyone else in this world I guess.
  18. chortlehortle

    chortlehortle Junior Member 2+ Year Member

    Jul 5, 2006
    My Story:
    I asked my summer research PI, to write me letters to most of my schools, thinking someone in his position would have a lot of weight and offer a different perspective than my professors. I don't think he really liked me all that much, and once he even chastised me. But he was still a generally nice guy and I did my work well enough so I thought it should be OK. Well it turned out that every school that he wrote me a letter for rejected me pre-interview, including instate schools. And I know for a fact that my other LOR's and premed committee recommendations were stellar.

    I'm not being arrogant, but on a perfectly statistical point of view, I should've gotten interviews from some if not most of these schools. My GPA is unblemished and my MCAT have me right around the 98th percentile. And I have plenty of extracirriculars such as music, sports, tutoring, lab TA etc... I know there are a lot of factors that play into the admissions process but I'm fairly certain that everything else, including my essays, was looking pretty good.

    So while I cannot say for sure that his bad or not-that-great LOR was the cause but there certainly is a correlation.

    (good thing he didnt write one for all my schools!)
  19. jochi1543

    jochi1543 President, Gunner Central 2+ Year Member

    Apr 4, 2007
    Alberta, Canada
    Go key his car!

    JK, lol.

    It seems from some of the stories told above that some people may also simply feel compelled to write some sort of small negative thing to make the letter look more realistic and accurate, but it backfires because of their lack of familiarity with the applicant or just poor wording. I can relate to psipsina on some level, as I have a very strained relationship with my father and some people who don't know me well enough just think I'm some sort of messed up self-absorbed person who is incapable of having a good relationship with my parents. In reality, my father is very abusive and violent towards everybody and out of everyone, I have the BEST relationship with him. But to someone who's not very open-minded and is looking in from the outside it can definitely appear as if I were the problem, since *I* am the one ranting about it and they have no way of seeing my father and I interact. Unfortunately, I don't think there is much that can be done to completely prevent this type of thing from surfacing in your LOR - it's really the result of the writer's lack of tact and your public sharing of private matters (guilty of this myself :laugh: ).
  20. greg1184

    greg1184 10+ Year Member

    Dec 9, 2006
    I submitted more than the minimum letter of recommendations to the premed committee then chose the ones I liked (of the ones that let me see it of course). And then for the rest, I used my gut feeling to pick the ones who would write a nice letter. One thing I cant stand is a generic letter of recommendation that came straight off a template.

    However, regardless, always thank the professor for the letter and move on. You don't have to tell him/her whether you actually used the letter or not.
  21. JimT30

    JimT30 5+ Year Member

    Mar 4, 2007
    I have a professor who has a really great CV, but he doesnt speak english real well. I know he thinks very highly of me, he confides in me and vents to me about administration and other professors, plus I work in his lab and highest grade in his class. So my question is, do I ask him to write the letter, which would be really positive, or not since he doesnt speak english well. Do adcoms look at the background of the letter writer or just what they write?
  22. JesusISourLORD

    JesusISourLORD 2+ Year Member

    Apr 16, 2007
    What a horrible person. Tell her to be Christian if not one.

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