Goro's guide to the app process-2015 edition

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Goro

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Some tips for you. Grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair.
  • Applying early is good. The earlier, the better. By September, it's probably too late for MD schools, but FYI, the DO cycle is longer (up to Dec or even Jan!) I'll make some DO-specific posts in the pre-osteopathic forum later.

  • Do NOT apply to a school that you don't want to go to. It's one thing to not like a place after an interview, but, really, do your homework.
  • Think about where the schools are. Mayo and Rochester are not merely cold in the winter, but Siberian cold. Tulane, on the other hand, is hot and sauna-like in the summer (but with great food). Consider your support groups, if you're leaving home for the first time. I literally have lost students to homesickness.
  • If you don't have your MCAT in (or some other crucial requirement), it's OK to start applying. The verification process can take a long time, so if you can get that out of the way, so much the better.
  • Don't know where to apply? Do your homework. MSAR Online is a mandatory resource. The money it will save you from not applying to even one wrong school (for you) will more than make up for the cost of MSAR.

  • Some med schools accept CC credits, some don't. There's no rhyme nor reason to it. Again, MSAR is useful in telling you who does, and who doesn't take the coursework. Here's a rule of thumb.

    -If you go to a CC and then to a UG school, that's fine.
    -If you go to a CC as a non-trad to get the pre-reqs, for for grade repair as a DIY post-bac, that's also fine.
    -If it appears that you're avoiding your UG school's rigorous weeding courses by taking them at CCs, then that's going to raise some eyebrows.

  • Apply strategically! What I mean is look over the MCAT AND GPAs of the schools you're interested in, and apply to those whose median scores are close to your own. Do NOT apply to a school if your numbers are <10th percentile of matriculants. The people who get into Yale with a 29 MCAT are either URM, legacies, veterans, or have something really spectacular about their story.

  • My suggestion is that if you're 2-3 points below the school's median, you're in striking distance, but consider your numbers carefully. Apply smart and apply once.

  • In light of the above, there's "reach", and then there's "unrealistic". Be realistic.

  • If your GPA is under 3.4, I recommend NOT applying now, unless you live in an area where the state schools have their 10th-90th percentiles stretching down to 3.3. An example is U AR or U MO-KC. Better to take a post-bac or SMP and get the GPA into a competitive zone. Oh, and I'm not impressed with the n=1 stories of "my cousin got into Harvard with a 3.0 GPA". There always will be outliers.

  • If you do well in a SMP/post-bac (GPA >3.6 AND have a MCAT > 33), then there are med schools that reward reinvention, even if your cGPA is <3.4! Search for my other posts for lists of those.

  • A great GPA is not going to make up for a poor MCAT, and vice versa.

  • [EDITED] The average MD matriculant nationwide has a GPA of 3.69 +/- 0.25 and an MCAT of 31. Remember these numbers.

  • Know your target schools, beyond the numbers. Many schools are mission driven, like Howard, UCI, SIU, and Central Michigan.

  • Look up how many public schools accept out-of-state students, and what percentage are these of the class? MSAR tells you this in the Acceptance Information tab. Many schools (ex. Mercer, LSU, U MS) will favor in-state residents, to the exclusion of OOSers. Those OOS students taken at, say, U IA or U AL, most likely come from neighboring states. So don't apply to U HI just because you'd love to go to med school in HI. Have the bona fides for HI. My rule of thumb is if >15-20% of the matriculants are from OOS, it might be worth applying. But be > avg.

  • In that vein, think very carefully about "ties" to a state. Growing up in a place and then moving away is fine. Wife's family lives there? Not fine.

  • Have as any eyeballs as possible go over your app. There's no excuse for spelling, grammar or thoughtless mistakes on your PS. And for God's sake, when you cut and paste, remove school A's name and replace it with B for the app for school B. As in sports, where the team that makes more mistakes will lose, the apps with the fewest mistakes get received kindly.

  • Don't use your PS to explain why you got bad grades. It's for "Who are you?", for "Why Medicine?" and how you got to that decision.

  • Do NOT write in your PS or secondary about what you think we want to see...write about your passions and what drives you. Write about what makes you interesting.

  • If English is NOT your native language, have some native English speakers go over your app.

  • Many schools send out secondaries whether you're competitive or not. They can be a tax on the hopelessly clueless, or over-optimistic.

  • Have the right ECs. You need ECs. There are tons of people on SDN who bitch and moan about them. Well, tough. Each school gets thousands of apps for some 100-250 seats. How do we winnow down the pool? The answer is something that hyperachievers with no people skills hate hearing: you have display your altruism and humanity, your willingness to serve others, that you know what you're getting into, and that you know what a doctor's day is like. It's not only about GPA and MCATs...it's about the rest of the packet. All the people you're competing with are academically clones of each other. So the guy with 1000 hrs in the lab and 100 hrs shadowing (and who thinks shadowing counts as volunteering) but no other clinical experience doesn't know what he's getting into, hasn't shown anything altruistic and will be passed over for someone who reads to poor children, or brings coffee to the dialysis patients in hospice. 4.0 automatons are a dime-a-dozen. Stats may get you to the door, but ECs get you through the door.

  • If you're doing this because your parents are pressuring you to do it, stop right now, grow a spine and/or some balls, and tell them that this isn't for you. You'll just save yourself a lot of misery later. Better yet, get them accounts on SDN so they can see what it takes to get into med school.

  • It's a scary process. And that's OK. Keep in mind that this isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. Patience is a virtue.

  • One or two bad grades in your app isn't going to kill you. Neither will parking tickets. Schools don't care about your parking tickets.

  • Not all IAs will kill you either, especially if they occurred when you were young and stupid, and now have grown. AdCom members were young and stupid once too.

  • If you have a felony in your background (especially a crime against a person), or multiple offenses, especially DUI, stop right now.

  • In light of the above, even if you have had your juvenile records seal, expunged, or sent to the Planet Zool, do a background check to make sure they’re really sealed. Not all of these things disappear, and if there’s any hint that you’re hiding something, you can be rejected, have your acceptance rescinded (it’s happened) or be expelled. Be truthful. You get a box to explain things. Explain well and OWN your transgressions; learn from them as well.

  • If you have an institutional action (IA) for cheating, stop right now. There's cheating and then there cheating. Plagiarism is not the same as merely forgetting some footnotes. Having someone take an exam for you is, well, lethal.

  • Always have a backup plan.

  • Know what's in your app. Do NOT lie. Do NOT embellish. If you did research, know what it was about.

  • If you're still collecting LORs, simply ask "do you know me well enough to write me a good LOR?"

  • It's OK to have had a poor semester, or even a poor year, if you have overcome that with straight A’s since then. People believe in redemption, and let's face it, we like come from behind stories.

  • This process is not a zero-sum game. If you have a 3.5 GPA, and your cousin Jane has a 3.7, you're still competitive. You're not competing for the same seat, just a seat.

    "Where do I apply?"
    My rough rule of thumb:
    MCAT > 35 and GPA > 3.6: anywhere.
    GPA >3.5; MCAT <35 all except high tier schools
    GPA >3.4, MCAT < 33, lower tier
Look up and use the LizzyM score, or consider WedgeDawg’s rubric:
http://forums.studentdoctor.net/threads/wedgedawgs-applicant-rating-system.1131149/

MCAT < 29, newest schools only (except Hofstra, Va Tech and Central MI..the latter wants in-state only).
MCAT <27: strongly suggest re-take.

The minimum MCAT ideally should be 30 with 10/10/10 (note: it will take us a few years to get comfortable with the new MCAT. In the meantime, we'll use percentiles)

And to all of you, good luck!

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You are an amazing person.
 
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Let me start off by saying that you're an unbelievable resource for all that are thinking about applying to medical school. Reading your advice last cycle made the entire process inexplicably easier and less stressful. To everyone reading, take Goro's word as gospel; he truly knows what he is talking about, and will not sugar-coat things. Goro, I hope that you continue to provide medical school hopefuls with insight and advice well into the future, we all truly appreciate it.

Thanks again

P.S. I've always wondered, and I know that it's a longshot, but is your SDN handle by any chance named after Goro from mortal combat? :)
 
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@Goro Thank you, this is great!

If you do well in a SMP/post-bac (GPA >3.6 AND have a MCAT > 33), then there are med schools that reward reinvention, even if your cGPA is <3.4! Search for my other posts for lists of those.
I tried looking for this list in your created threads and didn't see it. Did I look in the wrong place?
 
Erroneous bullet points really take away from the quality of this post. Thank you @Goro, insightful as always.
 
Erroneous bullet points really take away from the quality of this post. Thank you @Goro, insightful as always.

I didn't realize bullet points could be wrong.

Nice job @Goro. It seems similar to the @medic86 application guide in many ways, if not simpler and more condensed.
 
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Fixed that!
Aaaaand the copy/paste from last year's thread kept the error on matriculant MCAT average. It's not 33.

One could say it's a family name.
I've always wondered, and I know that it's a longshot, but is your SDN handle by any chance named after Goro from mortal combat?

Fixed that, sort of. Can't figure out yet how to get the spacing shorter. Give me time.
Erroneous bullet points really take away from the quality of this post.

Look at some of my posts in the "WAMC" forum.
I tried looking for this list in your created threads and didn't see it. Did I look in the wrong place?
 
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Nice compilation. Can you expand on why someone with <33 (or the equivalent percentage) is automatically relegated to low tier? I was also under the impression that there is a blurry line between mid and low tier schools (if any).
 
  • Have as any eyeballs as possible go over your app. There's no excuse for spelling, grammar or thoughtless mistakes on your PS. And for God's sake, when you cut and paste, remove school A's name and replace it with B for the app for school B. As in sports, where the team that makes more mistakes will lose, the apps with the fewest mistakes get received kindly.

And this is why! :p

As always, great advice from Goro (def helped me this past cycle)!
 
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Some tips for you. Grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair.

  • Know your target schools, beyond the numbers. Many schools are mission driven, like Howard, UCI, SIU, and Central Michigan.

Thanks so much for the tips!
I didn't know UCI was mission-based. Could you clue me in, I couldn't locate anything on their website

You are awesome! :)
 
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@Goro Thank you, this is great!


I tried looking for this list in your created threads and didn't see it. Did I look in the wrong place?

From various posts around this forum:


I've seen successful reinventers get into, or at least IIs at, BU, Tufts, Drexel, Vandy, Duke, U Miami, Wayne State, SUNY-Upstate, Albany, NYMC, Case, and Rosy Franklin.
There are a good number of MD schools that reward reinvention. Start with:

U MA
Case
U Miami
Duke
Columbia
Dartmouth
BU
Tufts
Albany
Drexel
NYMC
SUNY Upstate
U VM
Other lower tier schools.
All the new schools, except Central MI
Goro suggests throwing in U Miami, Loyola, SLU and MCW as well.
 
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From various posts around this forum:
Thank you x a million. You're so kind. I found a 2/3 of those but not the middle one. Thanks!

Stupid question: what is a II? Is it interview invite? I've been trying to figure it out all day and I'm not positive!
 
Thank you x a million. You're so kind. I found a 2/3 of those but not the middle one. Thanks!

Stupid question: what is a II? Is it interview invite? I've been trying to figure it out all day and I'm not positive!

II = Interview Invite. Often incorrectly viewed as a secondary thanks to those cunning Romans
 
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II = Interview Invite. Often incorrectly viewed as a secondary thanks to those cunning Romans
Yes I kept thinking it meant a secondary! And was trying to find a list of abbreviations but the search function didn't give me anything. It was just in the last 10 min while browsing MDApps that I figured out that II is interview invite.
 
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Yes I kept thinking it meant a secondary! And was trying to find a list of abbreviations but the search function didn't give me anything. It was just in the last 10 min while browsing MDApps that I figured out that II is interview invite.

MDApps is definitely useful for sorting out the application and monitoring the application progress. The terminology commonly used are as follows:

SR = Secondary Received
SS = Secondary Submitted
II = Interview Invite
IA = Interview Attended (not Institutional Action seen on various SDN threads)
R = Rejected
A = Accepted
W = Waitlisted
WD = Withdrew
 
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Aaaaand the copy/paste from last year's thread kept the error on matriculant MCAT average. It's not 33.
What are you talking about? Goro ostensibly fixed it already, but are matriculant MCAT averages slightly inflated or something?
 
Leady's OK; I was incorrect last year but fixed the error. Averages of acceptees are ~33, but since people typically have > 1 accepts, the number gets inflated. Hence, it's better to use the median for matriculants.
What are you talking about? Goro ostensibly fixed it already, but are matriculant MCAT averages slightly inflated or something?
 
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when we use the MSAR to look up potential schools, i know we should choose schools with median scores close to ours... but how close is close? if youre sitting between a 3.65-3.7, should you only really consider the 3.6 schools? also when one of our GPAs matches the median but the other is close to/falls within the range, may we also consider those schools? thanks for your helpful post, Goro!
 
when we use the MSAR to look up potential schools, i know we should choose schools with median scores close to ours... but how close is close? if youre sitting between a 3.65-3.7, should you only really consider the 3.6 schools? also when one of our GPAs matches the median but the other is close to/falls within the range, may we also consider those schools? thanks for your helpful post, Goro!

I believe that common advice for this is that if you're >10th percentile for MCAT and GPA you have a shot.
 
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In regards to applying as early as possible: I am planning on taking the approach where I apply to one school to get my primary verified in very early June, take the June 19th MCAT, pre-write secondaries, receive scores back July 20th, and, if I haven't completely blown it, immediately apply to everywhere else. How long can I expect to have to wait to receive secondaries / will it adversely affect my chances to be turning in secondaries in August?

(This is probably a question that has been answered before, so I apologize for potentially being repetitive. Thank you for your help!)
 
Thank you for your post. I need to ask you something: I'm kind of stressing over getting recommendation letters. Specifically, having to have every letter-writer send individual letters to each of my schools.

Are recommendation letters now-a-days done via an online medium? That would be a life saver because it would make me way more stressed out about asking people to write my letters.

Thank you very much.
 
How long can I expect to have to wait to receive secondaries / will it adversely affect my chances to be turning in secondaries in August?

I did exactly this for the cycle that's just finishing up. Almost all secondaries came within a day or two of adding the school to AMCAS. The only exceptions were Vanderbilt (9 days), Stanford (12 days), and Hopkins (8 days).


EDIT - I just rechecked the timeline. I added those schools 9 days before my MCAT score was released. So Vandy sent me the secondary the same day my score came out, and Stanford 3 days after. Hopkins apparently sent it to me the day before my score was released.

Bottom line: They send the secondaries really quickly.
 
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Thank you for your post. I need to ask you something: I'm kind of stressing over getting recommendation letters. Specifically, having to have every letter-writer send individual letters to each of my schools.

Are recommendation letters now-a-days done via an online medium? That would be a life saver because it would make me way more stressed out about asking people to write my letters.

Thank you very much.
Most people use Interfolio to collect letters and submit them to AMCAS electronically.
 
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I did exactly this for the cycle that's just finishing up. Almost all secondaries came within a day or two of adding the school to AMCAS. The only exceptions were Vanderbilt (9 days), Stanford (12 days), and Hopkins (8 days).

EDIT - I just rechecked the timeline. I added those schools 9 days before my MCAT score was released. So Vandy sent me the secondary the same day my score came out, and Stanford 3 days after. Hopkins apparently sent it to me the day before my score was released.

Bottom line: They send the secondaries really quickly.

Okay, thanks! The idea of having to wait so long is unnerving but probably worth it to not spend hundreds of dollars applying just in case my MCAT is crap, so it's good to know that this approach can work out.
 
Do you think one has a shot if his or her GPA was a 3.60-62 and the 10th percentile GPA was a 3.65? And a 3.60-62 along with a MCAT that is at or above the 10th percentile/median MCAT of that school. @Goro @WedgeDawg
 
Another gem by Goro! Things I like in particular:

-very easy to read, easy to digest.
-addresses the most common questions that have been cropping up recently, especially pertaining to IAs and criminal backgrounds. I didn't realize so many premeds had this kind of history!

Thanks for your insight - people like you are the reason this site is the fantastic resource that it is.
 
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If you're right at the 10th %ile? You're in what I call "striking distance".

The real question should be: "Do I have a realistic chance?"

And the answer depends upon what in your packet, and the school. Killer ECs might indeed get you some love for IIs. Cookie cutter? Not so much. I'd suggest always trying your state school, except if you live in CA. It's brutal there.

Do you think one has a shot if his or her GPA was a 3.60-62 and the 10th percentile GPA was a 3.65? And a 3.60-62 along with a MCAT that is at or above the 10th percentile/median MCAT of that school. @Goro @WedgeDawg
 
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If you're right at the 10th %ile? You're in what I call "striking distance".

The real question should be: "Do I have a realistic chance?"

And the answer depends upon what in your packet, and the school. Killer ECs might indeed get you some love for IIs. Cookie cutter? Not so much. I'd suggest always trying your state school, except if you live in CA. It's brutal there.

Yes, I am aware! But I mean I know it's generally recommended to not apply to schools if you're below the 10th percentile. If one has a 3.62 GPA and the 10th percentile for a school is a 3.65, do you think the person still has a realistic shot? Considering it's only a .03 difference. And this is assuming the same 3.62 GPA person has a MCAT at or above the school's median.

Every pre-med I feel does the same basic activities (research, clinical volunteering, shadowing, etc…)
 
Is there any point to using Interfolio now that the application has opened?
  • Don't use your PS to explain why you got bad grades. It's for "Who are you?", for "Why Medicine?" and how you got to that decision.
Can we use the PS to explain meh grades at cc but then a solid upward trend at a UC? (3.8)
 
Is there any point to using Interfolio now that the application has opened?

Can we use the PS to explain meh grades at cc but then a solid upward trend at a UC? (3.8)
The quote you posted answered that question...he advises no.

As for Interfolio...I see no point when you've already got a place to send the letters.
 
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As for Interfolio...I see no point when you've already got a place to send the letters.
Would Interfolio maybe process written letters faster than AMCAS, and then send digital copies to AMCAS that then would be processed quicker than if I had nondigital letters sent straight to AMCAS?
 
Would Interfolio maybe process written letters faster than AMCAS, and then send digital copies to AMCAS that then would be processed quicker than if I had nondigital letters sent straight to AMCAS?
You are wayyyy overthinking this.
Get your letters in sometime in the next 2mo or so and you'll be fine.
 
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That's what your transcript is for. Let it talk for you.


Is there any point to using Interfolio now that the application has opened?

Can we use the PS to explain meh grades at cc but then a solid upward trend at a UC? (3.8)


Sometimes one has to apply with the app one has, warts and all, and see how the cycle shakes out. But if you're at the 10th %ile for a particular school, do you really think you're competitive there?

Yes, I am aware! But I mean I know it's generally recommended to not apply to schools if you're below the 10th percentile. If one has a 3.62 GPA and the 10th percentile for a school is a 3.65, do you think the person still has a realistic shot? Considering it's only a .03 difference. And this is assuming the same 3.62 GPA person has a MCAT at or above the school's median.
 
this may be a silly question but... for personal statements, do we use 1 or 2 spaces after the period? ive searched previous forums and it seems like it's now more common to use 1, which is not what i learned growing up. just wanted to be sure since those extra characters are precious
 
this may be a silly question but... for personal statements, do we use 1 or 2 spaces after the period? ive searched previous forums and it seems like it's now more common to use 1, which is not what i learned growing up. just wanted to be sure since those extra characters are precious
There are a lot of people out there who will vehemently argue that 1 space after the period is the only correct way to type, even outside of character-counting situations like this. It's a debate about as heated as (historically) the Oxford comma, or 'which citation style is best' - only it's even more frivolous/pointless.

However, I have yet to encounter anyone, anywhere who advocates using 2 spaces after the period in a situation such as this, where character count is limited. Just use 1.

At the end of the day, very few people would even notice the difference, even fewer would care which you chose, and nobody would judge you as an applicant for it either way. So why wouldn't you use the method that helps you out?
 
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That's what your transcript is for. Let it talk for you.





Sometimes one has to apply with the app one has, warts and all, and see how the cycle shakes out. But if you're at the 10th %ile for a particular school, do you really think you're competitive there?

Yes, I am aware! But I mean I know it's generally recommended to not apply to schools if you're below the 10th percentile. If one has a 3.62 GPA and the 10th percentile for a school is a 3.65, do you think the person still has a realistic shot? Considering it's only a .03 difference. And this is assuming the same 3.62 GPA person has a MCAT at or above the school's median.

A 3.6 is unfortunately actually below the median for almost every US MD school. So I don't know.
 
A 3.6 is unfortunately actually below the median for almost every US MD school. So I don't know.
They're just guidelines. If you really want to go there, apply, but know that if you're at or below 10th percentile, it's a reach. If your list is nothing but reaches, that's a problem. Sometimes it's a crapshoot :shrug: c'est la vie.
 
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They're just guidelines. If you really want to go there, apply, but know that if you're at or below 10th percentile, it's a reach. If your list is nothing but reaches, that's a problem. Sometimes it's a crapshoot :shrug: c'est la vie.

My GPA is just slightly below the median for most schools. It's only slightly below the 10th percentile for schools like Stanford, Harvard, Yale, etc. I guess I'm not in a terrible position. My sGPA is probably at the 10th percentile for a lot of schools (~3.4ish). I just would feel a lot more confident about my chances if my GPA were closer or above the median. What schools are you considering? Congrats on the killer MCAT, btw.

Thanks for keeping me on my toes! According to AMCAS, it's 3.69 +/- 0.25 for the past two years for cGPA, and 3.63 for sGPA. Still, a 3.6 is quite competitive.
https://www.aamc.org/data/facts/applicantmatriculant/

You're welcome! I hope so. I know numbers are often skewed though by friendly state schools and such and I am not from a lucky state, I think (NY).
 
My GPA is just slightly below the median for most schools. It's only slightly below the 10th percentile for schools like Stanford, Harvard, Yale, etc. I guess I'm not in a terrible position. My sGPA is probably at the 10th percentile for a lot of schools (~3.4ish). I just would feel a lot more confident about my chances if my GPA were closer or above the median. What schools are you considering? Congrats on the killer MCAT, btw.



You're welcome! I hope so. I know numbers are often skewed though by friendly state schools and such and I am not from a lucky state, I think (NY).
Haha, well, my gpa is below the 10th percentile for all but a handful of schools in the country (sorry, probably why I was so terse when discussing schools where a 3.6 is below median, lol!)
So...not entirely sure yet. I've got a WAMC thread going, but I'm trying to whittle down my list since I keep leaning more towards my MCAT range and trying to ignore what my gpa is telling me, haha! :laugh:

PS - NY is not a bad state to apply from, relax!
 
Do adcoms take note of when letters of recommendation were written?

I would like to ask one of my professors to write me an LOR at the end of his class, but I'm unsure if having one written a few years before I apply would raise some eyebrows. There are two reasons I don't want to wait until right before I reply to ask: 1. this school is on a quarter system, so by the time 2 more years have come and gone, I wouldn't expect the professor to remember my performance in his class, which brings me to 2. this professor teaches an unusual set of classes, so I don't expect to take any more classes with him before it's time for me to apply.
 
I pay more attention to who is writing the LOR. I raise an eyebrow when someone has to rely on LORs several years old, and doesn't use anything from a more recent Faculty member. For example, someone who went through a post-bac, but didn't send any LOR from those Faculty.



Do adcoms take note of when letters of recommendation were written?

I would like to ask one of my professors to write me an LOR at the end of his class, but I'm unsure if having one written a few years before I apply would raise some eyebrows. There are two reasons I don't want to wait until right before I reply to ask: 1. this school is on a quarter system, so by the time 2 more years have come and gone, I wouldn't expect the professor to remember my performance in his class, which brings me to 2. this professor teaches an unusual set of classes, so I don't expect to take any more classes with him before it's time for me to apply.
 
I pay more attention to who is writing the LOR. I raise an eyebrow when someone has to rely on LORs several years old, and doesn't use anything from a more recent Faculty member. For example, someone who went through a post-bac, but didn't send any LOR from those Faculty.
Good to know, thank you! I'm certainly planning on getting more LORs over the next two years, I'm just trying to ensure that I have plenty to chose from when the time comes!
 
I am new here. Next year I will have to go to a CC because I really did not enjoy my first year in a no name school my questions are what classes would i have to take?
If i spend 2 years studying / doing community service and shadowing doctors and transfer to an ivy school and do great there do i have a lesser chance of getting into med school because i went to a CC or no? or should i keep going to the school but i wont be able to do the community service and shadow the doctors? And we dont really get a good amount of money for research also
 
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