Is this true? I heard that you should start collecting LORs beginning

alexfoleyc

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I heard that you should start collecting LORs beginning of freshman yr assuming you have encountered recommenders. But how would I approach them? What exactly do i tell them? "Umm, I will be applying to med school 2 yrs from now, do mind providing a recommendation letter?" (Im a freshman).. Is that how it works? The thing is that I know my biology professor really well and I also know a really nice "non-science" professor. I thought that when you were in your third yr you went back to your profs then requested a LOR, like in high school. So basically:

1. IS this true?
2. If yes, then what exactly should I tell my potential recommenders?
3. Can you use one LOR for multiple schools?
 

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No. Start building relationships from freshman year, but you don't need recommendations yet.
 

RySerr21

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No. Start building relationships from freshman year, but you don't need recommendations yet.
Second this. Dont ask for a LOR now. As far as your 3rd question, you can use a LOR for all of the schools you apply to. You will laern as you start preparing to apply, but there are systems such as Interferlio and VirtualEval that allow you to gather your LORs and keep them online. Whenever you need them, you send them out.
 
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I asked for my first LOR at the end of my sophomore year and it was stored until I applied this summer at my university's LOR service. You do use the same LOR for multiple schools.
 

boboca

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Just make sure you keep in touch with your professors. Update them on what you're doing so that when you finally do ask them for a LOR, they'll be able to include more recent activities as well. Sometimes its easier to get a LOR from a prof in an upper division class b/c they tend to be smaller.
 

Revilla

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I'm going to disagree with the others. Unless you're going to be taking another class with these professors, ask them for the LOR now. In two years, they may have forgotten everything about you except that you got an A in their course. You don't want a generic "yes, he was in my class and did quite well" LOR. You want a personal LOR where they can talk about more specific things.

Create an account at interfolio.com and store the LORs there (waive your right to read it and give them a stamped envelope with the Interfolio request form so they can send it themselves). You can store the letter there for years. That way in two years when you apply, you'll have a stack of LORs to choose from for schools.
 

medhope31

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I agree.. you shouldn't ask for a letter of rec until around junior year ( or maybe sophomore year if you are applying at the end of junior year). also try to take more than one class with the professor including a smaller lower division class so that you can build a relationship. They can get to know you better!

If you do a summer internship or research thing and you plan on featuring it extensively in your application or interviews you should get a letter of rec from the person you worked with so that you can back up what you are saying.

Also try to work with a physician and get a letter from him or her.

You can use the same letter for multiple schools.
 

ami1983

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i would ask your school's pre-med committee (if you have one). mine strongly recommended getting letters dated in 2008 to apply in 2008. you change a lot in a few years.
 

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Yeah, if you're applying in 2011, for example, you don't want a letter dated 2008 or even 2009. The more recent, the better.
 

Kaustikos

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Yeah, if you're applying in 2011, for example, you don't want a letter dated 2008 or even 2009. The more recent, the better.
It doesn't matter when. Just get the letters from someone who knows you. It doesn't matter if it's your freshman anthropology professor or your senior biochemistry instructor.
 
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It doesn't matter when. Just get the letters from someone who knows you. It doesn't matter if it's your freshman anthropology professor or your senior biochemistry instructor.
Um LOL I'd take my senior biochem one every time over a freshman elective teacher honestly but to each his own!
 

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But going to interfolio.com (I just heard of this site through this thread from Revilla) and saving recs from freshman year and etc. doesn't sound like a bad idea at all.
 

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Do med schools have an issue with letters that were dated 2-3 years before you applied?
 

Abulcasis

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Do med schools have an issue with letters that were dated 2-3 years before you applied?
Seeing from Revilla's comment and what the OP asked, I wouldn't think so...?
 

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Some schools want letters specifically from science faculty

I wonder how many kids get rejected every year by doing stupid **** in the app process (i.e. send an OOS app into a school that doesn't accept any OOS)... lol... the MSAR says that 239 OOS people sent in apps to one my state schools that doesn't accept OOS. DUUUUHHHHHHHHH :smack:
I bet the school was like, "Thanks for the cash! Here's your rejection letter!"
 

Revilla

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Yeah, if you're applying in 2011, for example, you don't want a letter dated 2008 or even 2009. The more recent, the better.
Why? A glowing letter dated 2008 trumps a generic letter written in 2011. It's not like schools won't know why it's dated 2008 when the professor starts by saying "so and so was in my Bio 101 class." They know that's a freshman level class and the student is now a junior applying to med school. It doesn't invalidate the letter.

Get the letter now while you're still fresh in the professor's mind. Don't wait two years. By then, the professor might have no idea what's so special about you.
 

ami1983

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Why? A glowing letter dated 2008 trumps a generic letter written in 2011. It's not like schools won't know why it's dated 2008 when the professor starts by saying "so and so was in my Bio 101 class." They know that's a freshman level class and the student is now a junior applying to med school. It doesn't invalidate the letter.

Get the letter now while you're still fresh in the professor's mind. Don't wait two years. By then, the professor might have no idea what's so special about you.
you want someone that knows your capabilities for success in medical school and the medical profession, someone that knows you for more than 3ish months can comment on this to a greater degree and write a stronger letter. keep in touch with that freshman bio teacher, update them on all the fab stuff you do between freshman year and applying, and make the letter even stronger.

like i said, the OP needs to check with their pre-med committee/office as they might have a requirement as to when the letter is written.
 

scarletgirl777

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I heard that you should start collecting LORs beginning of freshman yr assuming you have encountered recommenders. But how would I approach them? What exactly do i tell them? "Umm, I will be applying to med school 2 yrs from now, do mind providing a recommendation letter?" (Im a freshman).. Is that how it works? The thing is that I know my biology professor really well and I also know a really nice "non-science" professor. I thought that when you were in your third yr you went back to your profs then requested a LOR, like in high school. So basically:

1. IS this true?
2. If yes, then what exactly should I tell my potential recommenders?
3. Can you use one LOR for multiple schools?
My advisors recommended that. I felt awkward about it, and truth be told I probably would not have done it, but I ended up applying for summer programs so I had to approach people anyway.

I would say it's always best to get a recommendation as soon as your interaction is coming to an end so that they remember you as they write the letter. Even if you send them yearly updates or pop into office hours a couple of times, don't overestimate your prominence in their mind. Some of these professors get 250 new students every semester and it is simply just too hard for them to keep track of them all (In that vein, it's much better to get letters from professors who taught you within the context of a small class) Also, sometimes professors/mentors leave the university and it can be harder to track them down. It's hard to keep in touch with someone if you have no reason to, and you don't want junior year to roll around and realize that one of your former teachers has left and no one knows where he is.

EDIT: As for the whole issue of letters aging--the point is to force these professors to write something down. Then 2 years later, you can send an updated CV and ask them to update. Chances are, all they will do is change the date, but since the letter's already written they don't have to sit and think and try to remember that great personal anecdote that will make your letter stand out.
 
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Revilla

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you want someone that knows your capabilities for success in medical school and the medical profession, someone that knows you for more than 3ish months can comment on this to a greater degree and write a stronger letter. keep in touch with that freshman bio teacher, update them on all the fab stuff you do between freshman year and applying, and make the letter even stronger.
I still disagree. You can keep in touch all you want and that might work sometimes, but most professors are going to have too many students to keep track of someone they had in a lecture hall two years earlier. If you want the personal touch, you ask for the letter after the class. That's when you get things about you personally and your interactions in class, your helpfulness in lab, your visits during office hours to nail the material, the way you set up review sessions for your classmates, etc. All of that is going to be lost in two years. In two years, they can vouch for you being in class and earning an A and then it falls to, "and through periodic updates, I've been told Jane Doe earned A's in other classes too."

Besides, it's not like you're only going to collect three letters total. I have over a dozen letters stored on Interfolio. I mix and match them when I send them to schools, depending on what the school wants. If they want two science faculty, I have 8 science faculty letters to choose from. If they want a peer letter, I have two peer letters to choose from. If they want a non-science letter, I have three of those. If they want employer/colleague, I have three of those as well. I mix and match so that no two schools get the same combination of letters. That way, if one letter isn't as glowing as I hope it will be, it won't wreck my chances at every school because every school won't see it.
 

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Some schools want letters specifically from science faculty

I wonder how many kids get rejected every year by doing stupid **** in the app process (i.e. send an OOS app into a school that doesn't accept any OOS)... lol... the MSAR says that 239 OOS people sent in apps to one my state schools that doesn't accept OOS. DUUUUHHHHHHHHH :smack:
I bet the school was like, "Thanks for the cash! Here's your rejection letter!"
In 07 700 OOS applied to my instate school that excepts like 3 OOS( of which have to be wiche). The next year it dropped to like 200 :laugh:. They realized there was little to no chance of getting in.
 

ami1983

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Besides, it's not like you're only going to collect three letters total. I have over a dozen letters stored on Interfolio. I mix and match them when I send them to schools, depending on what the school wants. If they want two science faculty, I have 8 science faculty letters to choose from. If they want a peer letter, I have two peer letters to choose from. If they want a non-science letter, I have three of those. If they want employer/colleague, I have three of those as well. I mix and match so that no two schools get the same combination of letters. That way, if one letter isn't as glowing as I hope it will be, it won't wreck my chances at every school because every school won't see it.
do you have no faith in what they are writing about you? i wouldn't want to send letters if i doubted that they presented me in any manner other than amazing. thats so much time and effort. and what is the difference between peer and a work colleague? is a peer just your buddy from kindergarten? and what school asks for this???
 

19nbj58

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Do med schools have an issue with letters that were dated 2-3 years before you applied?
YES. Some schools DO NOT want letters dated more than a year old. How do I know? Because I specifically called and asked. You can get a letter now, but just update your letter writers and have them re-date the letter the summer you apply.
 

Amal

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Hi, I'm new here, but to get a kick start, I have to agree with Revilla.

Asking your professors after your semester finals are done for recommendation letters is not such a bad idea, especially if you develop a good and healthy relationship with him/her. With services like interfolio.com, this process becomes much simpler.

Think about it. Your professor has a family, hundreds/thousands of students to each each year (especially science ones- assuming they teach in large lecture halls). He/she will meet MANY great students and so for you to come back after 1-3 years asking for a recommendation letter makes your professor jog his memory of who you were, why you were different, what made you special, etc.

In fact, asking your professor right after your done with your course only saves him/her the trouble. He won't have to go back a few years through all the students he taught, or try to write a rec letter through a portfolio you gave him after a year or two. It makes his job easier because he'll already know who you are and what made you great, and it gets a rec letter out of your way too.

Do this each time you develop a bond with your professor, rinse, and repeat.

I figure this is why many students don't go to their freshman/sophomore professors for recommendation letters because it's been 'too long' since they last saw them (at least in the cases I've seen). In addition, keeping up throughout the years with an old professor may become a task that you'll neglect with upper division classes, MCAT studying, research, EC's, shadowing, and etc. taking over your life. See the picture?

In the end, Revilla has a nice system going on there with choosing many rec letters on interfolio. He/she can easily match the med school's requirement and reveal different sides of him/herself through the numerous applications he/she has. I find that a great advantage.

Edit (to 19nhj58): Some medical school require that, that's for sure. But if you repeatedly make strong connections with your professor over a span of all four years, then you can choose rec letters from your most recent professors. For those med schools that don't have a one-year limitation on letters, then you can send older ones that would otherwise reveal a different side to you. You've got nothing to lose to make more and more connections with professors, anyway.
 

Revilla

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do you have no faith in what they are writing about you? i wouldn't want to send letters if i doubted that they presented me in any manner other than amazing. thats so much time and effort. and what is the difference between peer and a work colleague? is a peer just your buddy from kindergarten? and what school asks for this???
Of course I have faith in what they write about me, but start a thread on SDN and find out how many people found out after the fact that one of their LOR writers said something not-so complementary. These threads have been up before so there's nothing wrong with being cautious.

The University of South Florida happens to require a peer letter and no, it's not the same as a work/professional reference.

Edit: Thanks Amal! It seems to work well!
 

RoyBasch

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OP: note that it may take a long time for the writer to ACTUALLY write the letter. I asked a professor for a letter and 6 months later (after numerous reminders) he still HAD NOT written it, and by that point I had to "close" my application files without the letter because applying early is important in the application process. My advice is be in position to ASK for the letters a year before you intend to apply if possible. Also, its always good to start cultivating relationships with letter writers over a long period of time.
-Roy
 

Amal

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Of course I have faith in what they write about me, but start a thread on SDN and find out how many people found out after the fact that one of their LOR writers said something not-so complementary. These threads have been up before so there's nothing wrong with being cautious.

The University of South Florida happens to require a peer letter and no, it's not the same as a work/professional reference.

Edit: Thanks Amal! It seems to work well!
No problem! I didn't know of this idea until I read your post, so thank YOU instead! :)
 

Kaustikos

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do you have no faith in what they are writing about you? i wouldn't want to send letters if i doubted that they presented me in any manner other than amazing. thats so much time and effort. and what is the difference between peer and a work colleague? is a peer just your buddy from kindergarten? and what school asks for this???
I just want to clarify that, in most cases, you can tell whether or not the letter will be a good one. More often than not, if you did well in the course and didn't act like a complete jack*****, the professor won't write you a bad letter of recommendation.
 
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I personally waited until the Spring of my Junior year to get LORs. The way I see, I wanted them to be able to include as much about my college career as I could offer them to look over (I gave them packets with relevant data about me). I don't know you, but if I was an adcom I'd be a little skeptical of a LOR dated from 2005. I mean, the whole point of these letters is to evaluate who you are NOW, rather than who you once were. They aren't considering your freshman self for a spot in medical school, they are considering your current self.
 

Revilla

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I personally waited until the Spring of my Junior year to get LORs. The way I see, I wanted them to be able to include as much about my college career as I could offer them to look over (I gave them packets with relevant data about me). I don't know you, but if I was an adcom I'd be a little skeptical of a LOR dated from 2005. I mean, the whole point of these letters is to evaluate who you are NOW, rather than who you once were. They aren't considering your freshman self for a spot in medical school, they are considering your current self.
If that was true, then Bio and Chem grades from freshman year wouldn't matter. I don't see how you can go to a professor you had two years ago and ask for a letter and expect it to be at all personal. Many professors don't have time to sift through a packet about every student. Their letters are usually based on what they know about you and two years after they had you in class, they probably won't know a whole lot. If you plan to take more classes with the professor, then definitely wait, but I don't understand why anyone would wait if they don't expect to take another class with the prof. And I also don't see why med schools would mind seeing a letter from your Bio professor dated the year that you took Bio. Seems pretty clear to me why it would have that date. Just because it has a 2008 date doesn't mean the professor knows any more about you in 2008 than he/she did in 2006. In most cases, the professor probably knows less about you two years later if he/she hasn't had you in class.
 

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YES. Some schools DO NOT want letters dated more than a year old. How do I know? Because I specifically called and asked. You can get a letter now, but just update your letter writers and have them re-date the letter the summer you apply.
That's a great point. Problem solved. However, it would still help to know exactly which schools don't want a LOR older than a year. So if any of you know the names, let's make a list.

I know that some premedical committees look at several LORs and choose the strongest ones. Given that this would be very advantageous only to students who have a committee, I think that those of us without such a committee should collect as many letters as possible and then send all those letters to one person we trust, such as faculty or adviser, and ask his/her opinion about which letter is worth sending. I think that 2-3 year old letter that is very strong is much better than a brand new letter that is average, even for schools that recommend to submit only new LORs. Now if there is a requirement that the school won't accept a letter older than a year, then it's different. No one really mentioned any names here, so I don't know whether that rule is a real rule or a mere recommendation.
 

Revilla

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That's a great point. Problem solved. However, it would still help to know exactly which schools don't want a LOR older than a year. So if any of you know the names, let's make a list.

I know that some premedical committees look at several LORs and choose the strongest ones. Given that this would be very advantageous only to students who have a committee, I think that those of us without such a committee should collect as many letters as possible and then send all those letters to one person we trust, such as faculty or adviser, and ask his/her opinion about which letter is worth sending. I think that 2-3 year old letter that is very strong is much better than a brand new letter that is average, even for schools that recommend to submit only new LORs. Now if there is a requirement that the school won't accept a letter older than a year, then it's different. No one really mentioned any names here, so I don't know whether that rule is a real rule or a mere recommendation.
I'm curious too. If anyone knows the names of the schools that won't accept LORs more than a year old, please let us know. I haven't come across any that have said that on their website or in secondaries, but that isn't something I specifically researched.
 

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I'm curious too. If anyone knows the names of the schools that won't accept LORs more than a year old, please let us know. I haven't come across any that have said that on their website or in secondaries, but that isn't something I specifically researched.
IIRC, it was Emory and Miami, but im not positive because this application cycle has been a blur. I just know that the first three schools I called said it was either required that the letters be no more than a year old, or that it was highly advantageous. Honestly, this process is stressful as is, so why complicate things any further? Its not a big deal for your letter writers to add an extra paragraph, re-date it and upload the new letter to interfolio. Mine were cool with it.
 

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IIRC, it was Emory and Miami, but im not positive because this application cycle has been a blur. I just know that the first three schools I called said it was either required that the letters be no more than a year old, or that it was highly advantageous. Honestly, this process is stressful as is, so why complicate things any further? Its not a big deal for your letter writers to add an extra paragraph, re-date it and upload the new letter to interfolio. Mine were cool with it.
I agree with you, it's not a big deal. I'm just making a case for not waiting two years after a class to ask for an LOR.
 

Kaustikos

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I agree with you, it's not a big deal. I'm just making a case for not waiting two years after a class to ask for an LOR.
Exactly, so just get it done :laugh:. I mean, honestly, if you want, ask every professor you've ever had to write you one and just file it. That way, you have multitudes to choose from.

I just want it to be clear; most professors probably have a cookie-cutter LOR on file from which to go on and then they just fill in the blanks. So, it's not like it's THAT big of a hassle for them.
 

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Exactly, so just get it done :laugh:. I mean, honestly, if you want, ask every professor you've ever had to write you one and just file it. That way, you have multitudes to choose from.

I just want it to be clear; most professors probably have a cookie-cutter LOR on file from which to go on and then they just fill in the blanks. So, it's not like it's THAT big of a hassle for them.
That's exactly the type of LOR you don't want. If I knew that a professor does something like that, I wouldn't bother to ask for a letter. I am not sure if that sort of letter will be good enough even for scholarships.
 

Kaustikos

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That's exactly the type of LOR you don't want. If I knew that a professor does something like that, I wouldn't bother to ask for a letter. I am not sure if that sort of letter will be good enough even for scholarships.
You can say what you want, but it's usually the case more often than not. Unless you're hurting for a LOR that truly speaks about you, these don't really "hurt you".
 

Excelsius

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You can say what you want, but it's usually the case more often than not. Unless you're hurting for a LOR that truly speaks about you, these don't really "hurt you".
Well, they don't hurt you directly, but they don't help you much. Therefore there is an implicit hurt here. Schools want LORs to learn more about you. Imagine if two students from the same UG apply to the same medical school with some of the same LORs. That's not going to be a pretty sight and will pretty much invalidate the LOR.
 

Kaustikos

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Well, they don't hurt you directly, but they don't help you much. Therefore there is an implicit hurt here. Schools want LORs to learn more about you. Imagine if two students from the same UG apply to the same medical school with some of the same LORs. That's not going to be a pretty sight and will pretty much invalidate the LOR.
That's a crock of bull****. How many people at each undergraduate university ask their professors for LOR each semester for grad/med school? You think all professors do is teach and write LOR? There is "variety" but in the end, the LOR are pretty much talking about the same thing. Now, naturally, you have moments where a professor will write you a genuine LOR but that's maybe less than 1% of all cases.
 

Excelsius

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That's a crock of bull****. How many people at each undergraduate university ask their professors for LOR each semester for grad/med school? You think all professors do is teach and write LOR? There is "variety" but in the end, the LOR are pretty much talking about the same thing. Now, naturally, you have moments where a professor will write you a genuine LOR but that's maybe less than 1% of all cases.
We each have different experiences. My experience is that the majority of my professors know me well, some even personally, and the letters are very unique. We may have different experiences because of the size of our schools. I always prefer smaller schools exactly because of this reason - you get to know your professors better and the community is tighter knit. At larger universities that is not the case as much. If you have over 50 students in a class, it is much harder to get to know the professors. But I have had classes as small as 7 and the average is around 20.
 

Kaustikos

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We each have different experiences. My experience is that the majority of my professors know me well, some even personally, and the letters are very unique. We may have different experiences because of the size of our schools. I always prefer smaller schools exactly because of this reason - you get to know your professors better and the community is tighter knit. At larger universities that is not the case as much. If you have over 50 students in a class, it is much harder to get to know the professors. But I have had classes as small as 7 and the average is around 20.
But your reasons imply that people are screwed over for going to a larger institution. Naturally, if you went to a school with 14 person classrooms with a professor that only taught one course, you'd be more inclined to expect a more personal letter. But if you're a professor teaching 3 200-person classroom lectures twice a year, it's almost expected to have a "fill-in the blank" type of LOR
 

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All of my LOR writers were professors who knew me very well (I went to a smaller school so we had small class sizes, plus I went to office hours a lot) and every time I asked any of them for a letter, I was assured it would be a personal letter, not a template. One professor I asked did use a template so while I didn't bother to "unask" him, I decided not to use his letter for that very reason. The others have all told me they wrote a letter that addressed my attributes specifically and the reason(s) they felt I would make a good medical student/doctor. Obviously, I have no way to prove this since I'll never see the letters, but I take them at their word.
 

ami1983

10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Jul 16, 2008
877
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Status
Medical Student
There is "variety" but in the end, the LOR are pretty much talking about the same thing. Now, naturally, you have moments where a professor will write you a genuine LOR but that's maybe less than 1% of all cases.
But your reasons imply that people are screwed over for going to a larger institution. But if you're a professor teaching 3 200-person classroom lectures twice a year, it's almost expected to have a "fill-in the blank" type of LOR
what is a genuine LOR?

Committee members can tell when LOR writers don't really know the person the letter is for or only know them superficially- they usually look like cookie cutter letters. Adcoms want letters that really speak to you and your strengths, LOR are supposed to be another avenue to help adcoms learn about you. I'm sorry, but I don't see how a cookie cutter letter would help you in any situation besides simply fulfilling the LOR requirement.

And as for large UG institutions, I went to the #1 largest UG in the US, and I know that each of my LOR spoke to my personal attributes and were NOT cookie-cutter. Going to a large UG does not mean that you get cookie-cutter letters. It all depends on you as a person and the relationship you develop with the person you ask to write the letter. If you don't do enough to have a relationship with your recommender, on what basis are they recommending you?? I'm not saying you should try to develop relationships with professors simply to get a non-cookie cutter letter, but by nature of pursuing activities that enrich you as a person those relationships should result.
 

Kaustikos

Archerize It
10+ Year Member
Jan 18, 2008
12,197
4,165
Always Bespin
what is a genuine LOR?

Committee members can tell when LOR writers don't really know the person the letter is for or only know them superficially- they usually look like cookie cutter letters. Adcoms want letters that really speak to you and your strengths, LOR are supposed to be another avenue to help adcoms learn about you. I'm sorry, but I don't see how a cookie cutter letter would help you in any situation besides simply fulfilling the LOR requirement.

And as for large UG institutions, I went to the #1 largest UG in the US, and I know that each of my LOR spoke to my personal attributes and were NOT cookie-cutter. Going to a large UG does not mean that you get cookie-cutter letters. It all depends on you as a person and the relationship you develop with the person you ask to write the letter. If you don't do enough to have a relationship with your recommender, on what basis are they recommending you?? I'm not saying you should try to develop relationships with professors simply to get a non-cookie cutter letter, but by nature of pursuing activities that enrich you as a person those relationships should result.
Say what you will. You're entitled to your opinion. But realistically, I don't for a second believe that letters are 100% genuine. It's just like how we handle secondary applications - we recycle.
 
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