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How are recommendation letters from community college science professors looked upon?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by Jc2008, Sep 5, 2014.

  1. Jc2008

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    I am prepping my application for per-allopathic and realized that some of my best letters of recommendations would probably come from the community college professors who I took physics over the summer with due to class sizes being small and the professors really being able to get to know you.

    So my question is what's better? University science professor letter from someone who doesn't know you that well or community college science professor letter from professor who has less impressive CV but knows you better? Or should I aim for a combo- maybe 1 university and 1 community college? All these professors have Phd.

    My pre med advisor says it does not matter whether the professor is community college or not and to go by how strong you think their letter will be-and I've seen that reflected in some other posts on here- but I wonder if that is really true? Don't ADCOMS look at the CV of the recommender and possibly discount letters from more obscure community college professors even if they are relatively strong?
     
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  3. June-chan

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    bump. I'd like to know the answer to this as well
     
  4. ithd

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    Although I don't know what adcoms do, I feel like LORs serve to give adcoms a more complete picture of you; therefore, you should benefit more from a strong letter than a lukewarm/generic one. They're both professors and the CC one that knows you well would be able to write more than just _____ did well in my class.
     
  5. AlteredScale

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    My LORs are from CC faculty. As said above, the goal of an LOR is to add dimension to your application.

    I do not believe AdComs are going to discuss how a professor published in Cell last month and therefore that LOR must be weighed more heavily. It's about the relationships you build with professionals, their evaluation of your academic performance and fit for the profession of medicine.

    Now obviously I would have loved to get a letter from the MD PhD and retired OBGyn of my endocrinology class but that wasn't going to happen. In my exp, CC faculty usually have more time to sit and chat with you. But n=1.


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    #4 AlteredScale, Sep 7, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2014
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  6. Winged Scapula

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    Just a bit of (mindless) clarification:

    the vast majority of CC instructors are not "professors" which is a title awarded to those with the terminal degree, usually a PhD, in their specialty and who has attained the most senior teaching rank. Only about 10% of CC instructors possess a PhD. The majority of them teaching the sciences have Masters degrees. In non-science courses, a BA/BS may be the degree held. In some fields, the terminal degree is a Masters (see The Big Bang Theory and Wolowicz's comments about such). The term professor has been incorrectly used to refer to any instructor of higher education.

    So while you may use the term Professor as an honorific (and I would not necessarily correct you in doing so, as it is a term of respect), there is an ACADEMIC difference between an instructor, an assistant professor, associate professor and a full professor. Does it make a difference in terms of LORs? Generally not but the best advice is to get the best letter from the faculty with the most impressive CV. If the CC instructor can comment best on your academic credentials more than the full professor who doesn't know you, then use the former.
     
  7. AlteredScale

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    Thanks for the advice! I clarified my post a bit in response to this.


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  8. Winged Scapula

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    YW.

    Just feeling a bit peckish (and pedantic) this morning. LOL...
     
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  9. Dr. Retractor

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    Not to hijack this thread but it's been said that LORs give dimension to your application. My academic LORs will not be that great but my 3 other ones (A PhD and an MD I did research with and at least one from a major EC) will be from "glowing" to "very strong" (direct quotes). Would those be able to make up for mediocre academic letters? And the director of the premed committee at my school knows me very well so my committee letter would reflect that as well.
     
  10. AlteredScale

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    You're not hijacking! From what I've gotten from faculty here on SDN it seems that mediocre letters won't do much but a bad one is a red flag. I don't think they'll "make up" for bland letters but I think the strong ones will shine and really help your app!


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  11. avivace

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    Make that n = 2. Several of my letters are also from CC faculty for the reasons you gave. Even setting aside the differences in class size, CC faculty are hired specifically to teach, where university faculty get tenure based on their research. Even if a university professor wanted to focus on teaching, they have other responsibilities to claim their time.
     
    #10 avivace, Sep 7, 2014
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  12. Jc2008

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    Thanks everyone, I 'm going to use a mix of university and college letters then and see how it goes.
     
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  13. MrChance2

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    FWIW all the med school prereq profs where I want to cc in Chicago had PhD degrees. The 3 I had as professors had MD/PhD Northwestern (retiring medical school professor/physician) , PhD UChicago, PhD Brown. I can't comment much on other parts of the country but I feel like the degrees necessary to teach college science have really moved towards terminal level degrees and the cc college professors I had were just as good (though taught less material and tested easier) as compared to top schools. The people with masters are the ones teaching guitar lessons or computer science 101 or introduction to algebra from what I saw. I'm not on admissions so I don't know if a bias for LORs exists but in my opinion it generally shouldn't
     
  14. Shirafune

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    OP, you may refer to this for any future LOR questions:
    http://forums.studentdoctor.net/threads/letters-of-recommendation.985472/

    But just to paraphrase something relevant to the bolded section. The academic title a person has does affect the impact of the LOR, provided two letters with similar content are compared. A Professor who claims the student is the best he has ever had will have more weight in his words than an Assistant Professor who does the same. The "best" in 20 years is clearly more substantial than the "best" in 5 years.
     
    #13 Shirafune, Sep 16, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2014
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  15. MrChance2

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    It makes sense. Ideally get a full professor at Harvard (1) to say they have known you for 4 years (2) and you have consistently been the best student they have ever laid eyes upon (3). I still think a community college professor saying great things about you is worth more than a ivy professor essentially saying "he took my class and didn't fail". Also, I could be wrong here but I think letters rec are more to find someone with a "this student took my class and made my life and the rest of their labmates lives hell, I can't believe they don't have someone better to ask for a letter" or "I barely knew this student why the heck are they saying they volunteered with me for 500 hours" letter of recommendation than to accept someone who otherwise would have been rejected based on what the professor says. Again, could be wrong here and I'm just talking about medical school admissions.
     
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  16. Shirafune

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    I think there's an implicit expectation that applicants have already screened their potential letter writers and have presented the best letters they possibly could. To read a letter that speaks poorly of an applicant indicates a serious problem in managing academic and professional interpersonal relationships.
     
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  17. Winged Scapula

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    I think there are certainly regional differences; I have many friends teaching science at the CC level, none with more than a Masters level. That was also my experience taking a couple of science courses; the quality of the teaching and other students was lacking. Perhaps in large cities like Chicago with a highly educated population you'll see more PhDs at CCs.
     
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