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Can average/weak recs letter kill your otherwise good app?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by NP545, Sep 4, 2014.

  1. If one has an outstanding GPA and competitive MCAT score with good ECs, can weak/average LORs, destroy your chances of being accepted?

    I know I have 1 really good rec letter, but the remaining 4, I feel are unattached/possibly weak. I basically did well in those classes and asked the professor for a letter at the end, which i only went to office hours maybe once or twice with them. They probably wrote something general like "Got good grades, came to every class" but I doubt they wrote anything about my character, etc. The 1 really good letter is from my PI, and thats due to research commitments.

    Will these weak LORs ruin my chances if the rest of my app is good? Or is LOR a system, where only negative comments will red flag you and everything else will not really have an impact?

    My relevant classes are all 200+ students so it's really hard for people to build a relationship with professors. They usually refer you to the TAs of the class for any questions due to the large class size. And many other classes have office hours by appointment and no set schedule for office hours, so it's kinda awkward to email them every week asking for them to come in to talk to me when I'm not having trouble in the class.

    In summary, will average/weak LORs ruin my chances? How can I get good LORs from a professor when I'm not struggling in the class and office hours with the professor is not easily possible?
     
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  3. hoihaie

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    TA for the professors
     
  4. Goro

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    A weak one won't. I've seen one that went something like this: "Joe Smith was a student in my Physics class; he did well"


    A BAD LOR will kill your chances. I see one them maybe once a cycle.





     
    Being, DokterMom and ridethecliche like this.
  5. NickNaylor

    NickNaylor Thank You for Smoking
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    Now that I work on an admissions committee, three things primarily determine how I will score an applicant: their numbers, their interview evaluations, and their LORs. I do read through their PS and personal experiences, but barring something incredibly amazing or incredibly lacking they don't factor in too much.

    I haven't seen any LORs that I would consider "weak," so I'm not sure how that would shape my opinion. I have seen one that was lukewarm; however, the applicant's other LORs and interview evals were strongly positive, so I considered that letter an exception to the rule.

    As far as getting LORs, part of it is playing the game. Get face time with the prof. This might require doing things that you don't actually need to do (asking questions) or want to do. Yes, it is somewhat duplicitous. But these relationships don't materialize out of thin air. You have to put effort into them.
     
    MrLogan13 likes this.
  6. Most of my TAs are Grad Students so I'm not sure how an adcom would view a rec letter from another student, basically. I got 1 rec letter from a science lab course TA, is that fine?


    So Goro, if 4 out of 5 rec letters are like your Joe Smith reference, then will you just treat it normally and move onto other portions of the app, or mark the LOR section of my app as weak?


    Would you prioritize interviews higher than LORs?
    Whether or not I ask questions in a 200+ class size, I doubt the professor will remember me afterwards. Many other people in the class also ask questions, so it's hard for one to stand out.
     
  7. hoihaie

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    I meant you go TA for the professor. THat's a good way to get to know them
     
  8. NickNaylor

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    There is no hard and fast rule. It's a calculus. As an example, one applicant I reviewed that had a perfect GPA and 40+ MCAT and was otherwise a very strong applicant on paper had interview evaluations that were less than stellar. I did not score him highly. It's a body of work type of approach, not one thing over the other approach.

    There are other ways to interact with faculty beyond asking questions.
     
    Being likes this.
  9. Goro

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    You might not believe this, but most LOR writers do take the time to write decent letters. The example I gave was perhaps the most extreme outlier of a weak LOR.

    Do not take counsel of your fears.

    And the best way to get a good LOR is to ask "Dr X, do you know me well enough to write good LOR for my med school applications?"


    So Goro, if 4 out of 5 rec letters are like your Joe Smith reference, then will you just treat it normally and move onto other portions of the app, or mark the LOR section of my app as weak?
     
  10. AspiringERMD

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    This actually makes me feel better; this implies that it's unlikely that my LOR writers decided to sabotage me if they're that rare :p Not that I thought that they would write a really horrible one, but you never know!
     
  11. studentp0x

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    What if one speaks poorly of the applicant's academic ability but the other LORs speak highly of it?
     
  12. Goro

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    While we try to view such things in the prism in that maybe this student and this professor didn't get along, it also makes us think that the student isn't consistent. Kinda like someone who bombs the Bio section in MCAT one year, and then the PS section the next.

    Among all the poor LORs that I've seen, your scenario isn't that common. The more common ones are something like "not a team player", "doesn't play nicely with others", mistrusts others and tries to do all their work" or "not responsible, consistently late for labs,"

     
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