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Just how important is it to have a committee letter?

Cwc127

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    How important is it to go through your school's committee to receive a letter from them, as opposed to simply sending in letters from your professors?

    The reason I ask has to do with my scheduled MCAT date. I'm taking the MCAT May 22nd, and in order to use the committee, I need to have at least taken the MCAT prior to May 27th.

    I'm considering pushing my MCAT date back to June 17th, since I am busy with school at the moment, and will be until finals are over (around May 7th). However, if I do this, I obviously wouldn't have taken the MCAT by May 27th, and thus wouldn't be able to use the committee.

    Is this a critical loss on my application?
     

    jturkel

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      my school doesnt offer committee letters either. and one of the medical schools i applied to this year asked for a committee letter....and i told them my school doesn't offer that service to students. result? accepted to the school.

      i had three faculty (two science, one non science) i knew very well write me letters as well as a physician i shadowed (whom i've known very well for 5+ years) and a non-science TA/Ph.D. student I TA'd/preceptored for.
       
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      LizzyM

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        If your school offers a committee letter and you don't have one, that is a red flag. This is particularly true if many students from your school apply to med school... the med schools will know that your school offers a letter and not having one becomes a concern.

        Keep in mind, too, that many times those of us on the adcom have met your pre-med advisors at events promoting our med school and so the committee letter is from someone we know whereas the letters from individual professors are usually from people unfamiliar to us. The committee letters are often formulaic (although each school has a different template) and they are very easy to skim and to interprete (certain phrases are predictable and tend to categorize students into tiers).

        You know, in the end, the deadline date for the committee letter may be a screen for applicants who have good time management skills and who are able to meet deadlines. I'd never thought of that before....
         

        justinbaily

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          What exactly is the committee letter? I had one for my application cycle over the preceding year, but I still don't get it. I didn't have a large group of faculty members who sat down and interviewed me in order to write the letter or anything; I think that my advisor simply took my individual letters and distilled them into a single one. Does that make sense? Is it common to do a committee letter that way?
           
          You know, in the end, the deadline date for the committee letter may be a screen for applicants who have good time management skills and who are able to meet deadlines. I'd never thought of that before....


          do you mean the deadline the committee makes for having the individual LORs in? isn't that kind of not always the student's fault if they are late?

          or do you mean the deadline for having the committee letter uploaded to virtualevals?
           

          dw2158

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            do you mean the deadline the committee makes for having the individual LORs in? isn't that kind of not always the student's fault if they are late?

            or do you mean the deadline for having the committee letter uploaded to virtualevals?

            some committees have deadlines, specifying that if the student's materials are not in by whatever date, they won't write the person a letter. that's what LizzyM is referring to-- if you can't meet that deadline, you didn't plan very well.
             

            LizzyM

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              What exactly is the committee letter? I had one for my application cycle over the preceding year, but I still don't get it. I didn't have a large group of faculty members who sat down and interviewed me in order to write the letter or anything; I think that my advisor simply took my individual letters and distilled them into a single one. Does that make sense? Is it common to do a committee letter that way?

              Some schools have a single person who writes the letter and who may quote liberally from a set of appended letters from faculty and others. Other schools have a committee that interviews the applicant and has one person sign but on behalf of a group that is named in the signature line. Still others offer little more than a generic cover letter about the school, its grading system, etc and then the submitted letters are appended. Some schools have each person submitting a letter fill out an evaluation sheet that rates the applicant on a number of characteristics and these rating sheets and the letters are assembled into a packet. Sometimes, based on the ratings, the school will categorize an applicant and report that this is "among the best", "excellent" "very good", etc.
               

              LizzyM

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                so do you not read the appended letters when a committee letter arrives?

                I always read the individual letters before I read the committee letter because the committee tends to leave out the unflattering stuff which is what we really want to know about (it isn't common but when it is there it is taken seriously).
                 

                justinbaily

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                  Some schools have a single person who writes the letter and who may quote liberally from a set of appended letters from faculty and others. Other schools have a committee that interviews the applicant and has one person sign but on behalf of a group that is named in the signature line. Still others offer little more than a generic cover letter about the school, its grading system, etc and then the submitted letters are appended. Some schools have each person submitting a letter fill out an evaluation sheet that rates the applicant on a number of characteristics and these rating sheets and the letters are assembled into a packet. Sometimes, based on the ratings, the school will categorize an applicant and report that this is "among the best", "excellent" "very good", etc.

                  Okay, that makes sense. This is what my school does.
                   

                  LizzyM

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                    then what purpose does the committee letter serve if you read the individual letters? does it function kind of as an internal ranking system within a given college?

                    Some schools do provide rankings or ratings, some provide information about the lack of institutional action in the student's file (reassuring), some will give you some background information that isn't in any of the individual letters such as family history, an explanation of a bad patch, how the student presented himself in the committee interview. So there is valuable information there but I always like to read the appended letters unfiltered before I tackle the cover letter.
                     

                    Xcited392

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                      If your school offers a committee letter and you don't have one, that is a red flag. This is particularly true if many students from your school apply to med school... the med schools will know that your school offers a letter and not having one becomes a concern.

                      I have a question:

                      I took my most of my pre-reqs at my undergraduate university, and am now doing a DIY informal post-bacc at a school near my home, where I'm essentially my own adviser, since I do not have any help/guidance in course selection and enrollment.

                      My post-bacc school does have a pre-med committee, but since there's no "formal" post-bacc program, I'm quite certain that they cater to UG degree students only. Therefore, when I start my application next year, I'll just use individual professor letters.

                      Am I still at a disadvantage?
                       

                      LizzyM

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                        I have a question:

                        I took my most of my pre-reqs at my undergraduate university, and am now doing a DIY informal post-bacc at a school near my home, where I'm essentially my own adviser, since I do not have any help/guidance in course selection and enrollment.

                        My post-bacc school does have a pre-med committee, but since there's no "formal" post-bacc program, I'm quite certain that they cater to UG degree students only. Therefore, when I start my application next year, I'll just use individual professor letters.

                        Am I still at a disadvantage?


                        Ask if you are eligible for a committee letter. It can help.
                         

                        Cwc127

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                          If your school offers a committee letter and you don't have one, that is a red flag. This is particularly true if many students from your school apply to med school... the med schools will know that your school offers a letter and not having one becomes a concern.

                          Keep in mind, too, that many times those of us on the adcom have met your pre-med advisors at events promoting our med school and so the committee letter is from someone we know whereas the letters from individual professors are usually from people unfamiliar to us. The committee letters are often formulaic (although each school has a different template) and they are very easy to skim and to interprete (certain phrases are predictable and tend to categorize students into tiers).

                          You know, in the end, the deadline date for the committee letter may be a screen for applicants who have good time management skills and who are able to meet deadlines. I'd never thought of that before....


                          If my school (state school...) does in fact have a committee, and I select to send in individual LOR's as opposed to getting a committee letter, how powerful of an impact would this have on my application?

                          Would the absence of a committee letter be powerful enough to dissuade committee members from inviting me for an interview or possibly an acceptance? Or would it be something that would more likely be brought up somewhere in the middle of an interview?

                          I try to remain realistic throughout this process, and I realize that my statistics are not exceptional, but they're not awful, either. My school only allows students to use the committee once. Thus, my reasoning up until this point has to been to apply without the committee this cycle, and, if I am not accepted, then to work on strengthening my application, and to then use the committee next year when my application has been improved. I feel that this displays not a lack of confidence in myself or my application for this cycle, but a realization that a large sum of eventual matriculants are not accepted the first time they apply.

                          I just hope the lack of a committee letter this time around won't be the sole factor that decides whether or not I receive an interview or acceptance.
                           

                          LizzyM

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                            If not having a committee letter raises a red flag, the applicant is not likely to be offered an interview. It makes the applicant look like damaged goods and someone who can be passed over if favor of students with committee letters. Apply once and get in. Make the strongest applications you can which would include having the committee letter. This is an expensive and time consuming process and it is emotionally draining. Do it once.

                            If my school (state school...) does in fact have a committee, and I select to send in individual LOR's as opposed to getting a committee letter, how powerful of an impact would this have on my application?

                            Would the absence of a committee letter be powerful enough to dissuade committee members from inviting me for an interview or possibly an acceptance? Or would it be something that would more likely be brought up somewhere in the middle of an interview?

                            I try to remain realistic throughout this process, and I realize that my statistics are not exceptional, but they're not awful, either. My school only allows students to use the committee once. Thus, my reasoning up until this point has to been to apply without the committee this cycle, and, if I am not accepted, then to work on strengthening my application, and to then use the committee next year when my application has been improved. I feel that this displays not a lack of confidence in myself or my application for this cycle, but a realization that a large sum of eventual matriculants are not accepted the first time they apply.

                            I just hope the lack of a committee letter this time around won't be the sole factor that decides whether or not I receive an interview or acceptance.
                             
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