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How important are letters of recommendation?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by CU_buffalo, Aug 7, 2002.

  1. CU_buffalo

    CU_buffalo Member 7+ Year Member

    Jun 16, 2002
    Hi everyone,

    Are letters of recommendation super important for admissions? I go to a big school where gen. chem classes are 400 people lectures, and classes like Ochem and physiology number 200+. Most med schools seem to want two letters from science faculty, but with classes this big, I know my professors don't know me really well. I took these classes roughly 2 years ago, and I never really made an effort to get to know my professors. If I ask for letters of rec, most will probably right one for me, but it won't be great since they don't know me at the personal level. Will this greatly hurt my chances of getting in?

    My dad has told me not to stress. He's a professor in engineering and works with graduate admissions for the engineering college and says when he and the admissions committee evaluate applicants, they don't really look at letters of rec unless the applicant is borderline. As long as there is nothing negative in the recommendation, everything will be ok. To me, though, getting in to med school seems much different than getting into a graduate program in eng. or the sciences. It seems that it would be much easier getting into MIT grad school than your average medical school. Anyhow, enough words. I have a 3.9 and a 33 MCAT. My ECs are comparable with what most people have. I would love going to my state school (Colorado). Do I have a shot without shining recommendations?

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  3. BlueJayBill

    BlueJayBill Member 7+ Year Member

    Apr 25, 2002
    med skool is completely a different ball game. Unlike engineering, it really matters what type of a person you are -- and recs are super important in describing that information. Having recs that don't shine obviously don't help your cause.. recs often help distinguising you from the rest of the pool.. ("best student i've seen in years ... or did &&&& which no other students as done..) Those kind of things can really make the difference between acceptance and waitlist.

  4. SMW

    SMW Grand Member 7+ Year Member

    Jul 12, 2001
    anchorage, ak
  5. Mr.D

    Mr.D insipidus maximus 7+ Year Member

    Jan 23, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Let's just say that between equally competent applicants (similar GPAs, ECs, MCATs, etc.) they have the potential to pull you up -- especially the REALLY good ones! In a nutshell, they're pretty important, but (I don't believe) important enough to overlook GPA or MCAT scores. My dos centavos. :D
  6. Jessica37

    Jessica37 Member 7+ Year Member

    Jun 5, 2002
    I also go to a school where the class sizes are typically large for general classes. Did you ever have any teaching assistants or anybody who led smaller discussion sections for those classes? I had one of my teaching assistants write me a rec letter because he knew me a lot better than the professor...the professor can also co-sign the letter so it looks a little more impressive. The professor would have only written general comments because he does not have a chance to know all 400 students, but the teaching assistant can really put in his own personal insights. I asked my pre-med advisor about it, and he said that was fine. Also, have you taken any other smaller classes in maybe biology or chemistry? The rec letter don't necessarily have to come from the basic sciences professors. I took an upper level bio class that had a lot less people, and I asked that professor to write me a letter as well. You have to be creative and think about who knows you the best. Rec letters are a big deal because they give the adcoms insight into who you really are--anybody can look good on paper but they need to know what others think of you as well. I hope this helps. :) Good luck!
  7. Sweet Tea

    Sweet Tea Girl Next Door Physician 10+ Year Member


    I also went to a school that had huge lectures for the general classes. Even some of the upper-level courses were huge! If you did well in the class, many profs will write you a good LOR, but you may have to visit them a couple of times in office hours so they can get to know you. Send them an email saying "Hi, I took your orgo class in the fall of 2001 and got an A (or whatever). I'm applying to medical school now and need LORs... would you be willing to meet with me and blah blah blah blah..." It's always nice if you can throw in a story about something that happened in class in the email. Good luck!
  8. exigente chica

    exigente chica 7+ Year Member

    May 28, 2002
    I go to a bitty school, so I can't empathize with you. But, I use office hours as a way to get to know my prof's. At least once a week, even after the class is over. Don't know how is works in big schools though.

    good luck
  9. racergirl

    racergirl Senior Member 7+ Year Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Listen to Sweet Tea--she's right on the money.

    I went to a huge Ugrad, and to get good letters of rec last year I did just what she did. I emailed my professors, explained who I was, and asked to set up a meeting with them. Also, I made up information packets for each prof that included a copy of my transcript, my MCAT score, and a copy of my AMCAS application essays and EC experiences. I even had these packets BOUND! It sounds a little over-the-top, but believe me the Profs will REALLY appreciate it!

    I never saw my letters of rec, but I got a couple of acceptances and one interviewer mentioned they were "impressive", so it all worked out in the end.

    Don't worry--in a big school like yours your profs will be used to students they barely know asking for recs. They'll most likely be happy to meet with you, but it's your responsibility to provide all the information they need to make your letter a strong one. Good Luck!
  10. Sweet Tea

    Sweet Tea Girl Next Door Physician 10+ Year Member

    Racergirl-- You seriously had all that stuff BOUND?? That's impressive!!

    CU_Buffalo-- listen to racergirl about giving them copies of your AMCAS and all that. All my profs asked for a copy of my personal statement and wanted a list of my ECs, and most wanted a copy of my transcript. I just printed off the AMCAS and gave it to them-- the material was all there and they didn't have to go hunting for it. I did have to explain about the lack of paragraphs on my PS, though (gee thanks, AMCAS). Just because you didn't know your profs when you took the class doesn't mean you can't get to know them (and have them know you) now. In fact, most will appreciate the effort you take in hunting down an old prof.
  11. DW

    DW Fix me some sandwiches Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    or obsessive, depending on your perspective (j/k) :p
  12. Sweet Tea

    Sweet Tea Girl Next Door Physician 10+ Year Member

    yeah, well, i was being nice... :D
  13. racergirl

    racergirl Senior Member 7+ Year Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    I know. Looking back it not only sounds obsessive, it seems [email protected] But it wasn't bound in leather or anything, just at Kinkos. Further, I applied last year during the AMCAS mess, so I used the same packets to mail out to schools.

    But anyway, it didn't cost me hardly anything, and the Profs really appreciated the effort, so I guess in this case a wee bit of obsession paid off.:)

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