Had 2 people decline to write LOR's, where to go from here

andjusticeforal

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I recently started asking for my LOR's for this upcoming cycle and two people I asked said no. These were people that I expected to write solid letters for me as we had great relationships and I did some great work with them, but surprisingly they declined citing some BS reasons for not doing it that basically boil down to them being lazy. I have actually never heard of this happening, but I have put it behind me.

However, I am not sure where to go from here. This leaves me with only one letter from a science professor and 3-4 from PI's (1 Phd - basic science research, 2-3 MD's - clinical research). Granted I will be getting a committee letter from my school, I want to have solid individual letters so that the committee one is strong. I am 2 years out of undergrad so there is really no chance of getting another science letter as I have asked the only 2 professors I know.

Has anyone else experienced this and ended up ok?

Since I am getting a committee letter, will these suffice? If not, where am I lacking and how can I fix this?

Thanks
 
Oct 27, 2013
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Ouch! Could it be that because you graduated two yers ago, they don't remember you very well? One idea that might help is if you compile details about the time you were in their class and formed "that relationship". Like, for instance, you helped to spark details about you, such as conversations you had. In fact, maybe if you spent some time doing that now, you may be able to go back and ask again. Could it also be that they are hoping that committee letter will be enough? For that letter, again, you might want to compile a few details about you and the times you worked with professors.

Please keep us updated because I may be in your same situation. It should work out. You might also want to contact your advisor for ideas about what to do. Did you also have a pre-med advisor? An advisor you spoke with about your major/minor?
 

Pacna

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A committee letter is typically sufficient. Usually schools list committee letters first in preference (like so: You are required to submit a. A committee letter or b. 3 letters; 2 science and 1 nonscience).

I think the committee letter will be just fine, yo.

Edit: Also try mailing the people you ask Oreos. Can you imagine somebody saying no to that? For real.
 
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starlight15

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Have you tried asking TAs? I was also out of college and several years from science classes, but found that my TAs were more willing to write letters for me and they talked to the professor to get the letter cosigned.
 
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andjusticeforal

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Ouch! Could it be that because you graduated two yers ago, they don't remember you very well? One idea that might help is if you compile details about the time you were in their class and formed "that relationship". Like, for instance, you helped to spark details about you, such as conversations you had. In fact, maybe if you spent some time doing that now, you may be able to go back and ask again. Could it also be that they are hoping that committee letter will be enough? For that letter, again, you might want to compile a few details about you and the times you worked with professors.

Please keep us updated because I may be in your same situation. It should work out. You might also want to contact your advisor for ideas about what to do. Did you also have a pre-med advisor? An advisor you spoke with about your major/minor?
Thanks for the input. Interestingly, I talked about our working relationship, why I thought they would be the best candidates to write my LOR's, what skills I developed and how they would make me a good future physician. I provided an update on what I have been doing recently along with my resume, transcript, a photo of me, and for one of them an Honors project I did with them. They still declined. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I went to a school where very few people are pre-med.

A committee letter is typically sufficient. Usually schools list committee letters first in preference (like so: You are required to submit a. A committee letter or b. 3 letters; 2 science and 1 nonscience).

I think the committee letter will be just fine, yo.

Edit: Also try mailing the people you ask Oreos. Can you imagine somebody saying no to that? For real.
The tough thing is the pre-med advisor at my school said we need a minimum of 5 letters, 2 science professors, 1 non-science professor, and 3 from other areas. I'm afraid I may receive a weak committee letter if I do not meet the requirements.

Have you tried asking TAs? I was also out of college and several years from science classes, but found that my TAs were more willing to write letters for me and they talked to the professor to get the letter cosigned.
I had one TA for orgo this semester, but she was terrible and I stopped attending her section classes because it was not worth the trip from work to class. Sadly I have no other TA's.
 

Pacna

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The tough thing is the pre-med advisor at my school said we need a minimum of 5 letters, 2 science professors, 1 non-science professor, and 3 from other areas. I'm afraid I may receive a weak committee letter if I do not meet the requirements.
Your adviser is full of s***. Most schools have a MAX of 5 letters.
 
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andjusticeforal

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Your adviser is full of s***. Most schools have a MAX of 5 letters.
Ya tell me about it. Unfortunately he IS the pre-med committee but all of his info is outdated or inaccurate and he even initially discouraged me from applying to medical school and I had assure him it was what I wanted to do. He said a minimum of 5 letters which I know is not the norm. Unfortunately I'll have to try to get them to make him happy.
 

Pacna

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Ya tell me about it. Unfortunately he IS the pre-med committee but all of his info is outdated or inaccurate and he even initially discouraged me from applying to medical school and I had assure him it was what I wanted to do. He said a minimum of 5 letters which I know is not the norm. Unfortunately I'll have to try to get them to make him happy.
Why do you have to make him happy? o_O
 

Euxox

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Your adviser is full of s***. Most schools have a MAX of 5 letters.
That stuff doesn't apply if you have a committee letter. The committee packet can have zero letters attached or a thousand as long as the committee signs off on it.

OP I totally understand where you are coming from. Sometimes you have to do that song and dance to meet unreasonable committee requirements. If your committee is asking for five letters, definitely try to get five, but I would say that it is better to have four strong letters than four strong letters and one mediocre one. If you are really having trouble getting five letters, you should set up a meeting with your premed advisor to talk about it. He may be able to help you get some LoRs (those professors you asked earlier might have been more likely to say yes if your premed advisor was bugging them as well). If not, at least he will understand your situation better when he's writing your committee letter.
 
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Pacna

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That stuff doesn't apply if you have a committee letter. The committee packet can have zero letters attached or a thousand as long as the committee signs off on it.
Oh! I didn't know that. Thank you. :)
 
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andjusticeforal

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That stuff doesn't apply if you have a committee letter. The committee packet can have zero letters attached or a thousand as long as the committee signs off on it.

OP I totally understand where you are coming from. Sometimes you have to do that song and dance to meet unreasonable committee requirements. If your committee is asking for five letters, definitely try to get five, but I would say that it is better to have four strong letters than four strong letters and one mediocre one. If you are really having trouble getting five letters, you should set up a meeting with your premed advisor to talk about it. He may be able to help you get some LoRs (those professors you asked earlier might have been more likely to say yes if your premed advisor was bugging them as well). If not, at least he will understand your situation better when he's writing your committee letter.
Thanks so much for the help and support. I think I will most likely have to arrange a meeting with him to sort things out as you said. I am concerned because most of my letters are going to be research and only one will be academic, albeit they should be strong. Hopefully we will get it sorted out.

Whoah, just curious what their reason was? How much time did you give them to write it?
They both had a few months to do it. I won't go into details for the sake of anonymity, but one said she will be traveling for the holidays.....not sure why that precludes writing a letter afterwards but she expressed no interest whatsoever in writing it so I'm not going to force the issue. I don't believe the other understood what I was asking her to write to be honest, but she also clearly did not want to write anything. At best they would result in weak letters if I even got them.
 

histidine

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Committee letters vary in what they require (some append letters to it, some take out quotes from letters, some are standalone with no input from professors), but all schools view committee letters the same way. Many schools will take just a committee letter + optional additional letters.

I had a committee letter, a research position letter, and 2 professor letters. I sent schools 1-3 letters depending on requirements. You definitely don't need 5.

Also, since you are a couple years out, you may not even need professors to write you letters. Generally, the guidelines to letter requirements apply only to traditional applicants. If you've been out for a couple years, get one from a volunteer supervisor, your boss at work, etc. You should check in with the schools that you are planning on applying to first though. Most schools still would like a committee letter to see how you compared in undergrad to other applicants and to make sure you are in good standing with the school.
 

Euxox

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Also, since you are a couple years out, you may not even need professors to write you letters. Generally, the guidelines to letter requirements apply only to traditional applicants. If you've been out for a couple years, get one from a volunteer supervisor, your boss at work, etc. You should check in with the schools that you are planning on applying to first though. Most schools still would like a committee letter to see how you compared in undergrad to other applicants and to make sure you are in good standing with the school.
I think andjusticeforal was more worried that his premed advisor would write him a poor committee evaluation if he didn't meet the committee requirement of five letters than about meeting any specific medical school letter requirement.
 
Nov 6, 2013
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They both had a few months to do it. I won't go into details for the sake of anonymity, but one said she will be traveling for the holidays.....not sure why that precludes writing a letter afterwards but she expressed no interest whatsoever in writing it so I'm not going to force the issue. I don't believe the other understood what I was asking her to write to be honest, but she also clearly did not want to write anything. At best they would result in weak letters if I even got them.
That really sucks, dude. Good luck and I hope you get what you need. :)
 
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andjusticeforal

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Committee letters vary in what they require (some append letters to it, some take out quotes from letters, some are standalone with no input from professors), but all schools view committee letters the same way. Many schools will take just a committee letter + optional additional letters.

I had a committee letter, a research position letter, and 2 professor letters. I sent schools 1-3 letters depending on requirements. You definitely don't need 5.

Also, since you are a couple years out, you may not even need professors to write you letters. Generally, the guidelines to letter requirements apply only to traditional applicants. If you've been out for a couple years, get one from a volunteer supervisor, your boss at work, etc. You should check in with the schools that you are planning on applying to first though. Most schools still would like a committee letter to see how you compared in undergrad to other applicants and to make sure you are in good standing with the school.
My committee is one where they quote directly from the letters, so having less letters will give the adviser less to work with. I also hope this doesn't make them believe I am not a well-rounded applicant.
I think andjusticeforal was more worried that his premed advisor would write him a poor committee evaluation if he didn't meet the committee requirement of five letters than about meeting any specific medical school letter requirement.
Precisely. I am also hesitant about explaining to him that 2 people said no when asked to write a letter. He may interpret it as there being a problem with me.
 
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Can you take a night science class next semester and make it your mission to get a good LOR out of it? Not saying it's the best solution but it's a thought....from what I understand, it's pretty important to have at least 2 science letters.
 

Euxox

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My committee is one where they quote directly from the letters, so having less letters will give the adviser less to work with. I also hope this doesn't make them believe I am not a well-rounded applicant.
My school's committee also does the same thing, and they also recommend having five letters. I was having trouble getting the fifth letter and my premed advisor said precisely what I said before: It's nice to have five if possible, but four strong letters are better than four strong letters and one mediocre one. I ended up only giving four letters (and only once science letter) to the committee and it seems to have worked fine. Multiple interviewers have told me that my committee packet was strong.

From what you've said, it seems like the five letters things is a stricter requirement at your school, but I still don't think that having only four letters will have a huge impact on your committee packet. If you have four strong letters, a good GPA, a good MCAT score, and good ECs, it would be very odd for the committee to write something like "andjusticeforal is a good applicant.... BUT he only had four letters." The number of letters just isn't as important as everything else. On the other hand, if you were hoping that letters would make up for weaknesses in other areas of your application, getting five letters might be more important to you.

Precisely. I am also hesitant about explaining to him that 2 people said no when asked to write a letter. He may interpret it as there being a problem with me.
I wouldn't recommend mentioning those two professors at all when you talk to your advisor. (Unless you think that there is a chance that you could still get a good letter from one of them.) Instead, you should say that you are having trouble coming up with a list of five professors that might be able to write you strong letters and that you would like some help with making the list. Again, don't mention those two professors from earlier at all.

Even if your advisor isn't able to help you, at least it will look like you are putting forth the effort to get the letters, and hopefully he will remember that when he writes your evaluation. In fact, I think that making a good impression on your premed advisor might be more important than getting good letters at this point.

I also agree with kyamh that it's not too late to try to get to know new professors.
 
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You generally don't need a committee letter if you are 2 years out of undergrad.

Since the committee wanted more letters than is necessary for med school applications, I would submit strong individual letters instead of using the committee letter. Using it seems like it puts you at risk for a mediocre letter since you are struggling to meet a 5 letter requirement & may have at some point rubbed this one-man committee the wrong way (why would you voluntarily use a letter from someone who advised you not to bother applying?!?!).

It's been several years since I got my LORs in order, so I can't remember what the standard is -- 2 science, 1 non-science + any additional? And if I recall correctly, if you've been working outside for 2 years in a medical/science field it's considered acceptable to replace one of the science LORs with an LOR from your PI/employer . . . but please verify that with people on the Non-trad forum.

When I applied w/out a committee letter, I believe I ultimately made available 1 so-so science LOR, 2 strong non-science LORs, one from a PhD who was my PI, and 2 from MD PIs in Interfolio and assigned some/all of them to schools depending on the respective LOR reqs for the program.
 

DokterMom

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Sorry to be blunt, but have you asked these two professors outright if they have any concerns about your candidacy? Or perhaps more diplomatically, if there are any areas where they have questions that might resolve any ambivalence they have about your candidacy?
 
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andjusticeforal

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Can you take a night science class next semester and make it your mission to get a good LOR out of it? Not saying it's the best solution but it's a thought....from what I understand, it's pretty important to have at least 2 science letters.
I would, but in addition to working full time next semester I will be using all of my spare time to get ready for the MCAT, so unfortunately I won't be able to take a class while doing this. Do you think having less than 2 science letters will be made up for by having a committee letter? Maybe it will weaken the committee letter?
My school's committee also does the same thing, and they also recommend having five letters. I was having trouble getting the fifth letter and my premed advisor said precisely what I said before: It's nice to have five if possible, but four strong letters are better than four strong letters and one mediocre one. I ended up only giving four letters (and only once science letter) to the committee and it seems to have worked fine. Multiple interviewers have told me that my committee packet was strong.

From what you've said, it seems like the five letters things is a stricter requirement at your school, but I still don't think that having only four letters will have a huge impact on your committee packet. If you have four strong letters, a good GPA, a good MCAT score, and good ECs, it would be very odd for the committee to write something like "andjusticeforal is a good applicant.... BUT he only had four letters." The number of letters just isn't as important as everything else. On the other hand, if you were hoping that letters would make up for weaknesses in other areas of your application, getting five letters might be more important to you.


I wouldn't recommend mentioning those two professors at all when you talk to your advisor. (Unless you think that there is a chance that you could still get a good letter from one of them.) Instead, you should say that you are having trouble coming up with a list of five professors that might be able to write you strong letters and that you would like some help with making the list. Again, don't mention those two professors from earlier at all.

Even if your advisor isn't able to help you, at least it will look like you are putting forth the effort to get the letters, and hopefully he will remember that when he writes your evaluation. In fact, I think that making a good impression on your premed advisor might be more important than getting good letters at this point.

I also agree with kyamh that it's not too late to try to get to know new professors.
I agree, I would also prefer to submit 4 strong letters than 5 with one of them being weak. I am also encouraged to hear that you only had one science letter because your mdapps is pretty awesome so it definitely worked out well for you. I will also take your advice and not tell the pre-med advisor about my current issue. Hopefully he will be ok with one strong science letter and 3 strong research letters.