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letters of they even matter?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by Dr OCD, May 10, 2007.

  1. Dr OCD

    Dr OCD Junior Member 7+ Year Member

    Apr 5, 2005
    honestly, ive been told by alot of people that in the end, your LORs do little for your application...and this really irked me, not because i dont think your GPA or MCAT dont matter, but largely because i've asked professors and people that ive worked with closely to write my recommendations. ive spent time talking to them about my personal struggles and my future career aspirations. and i know many (perhaps not all) recommenders put a great deal of time into writing LORs.

    so really then, whats the point of LORs if theyre not going to play a role in your admission? why not just do away with it if every student gets to write his/her own recommedations?!

    sorry if this seems like a rant :smuggrin:
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  3. Rogue Synapse

    Rogue Synapse The Dude Has Got No Mercy 7+ Year Member

    Apr 11, 2006
    yeah, they matter. especially if your reviewer knows you well and can write something that distinguishes you from the rest of the pack. scores are important, but they're not what makes you stand out from a huge field of very similar applicants (unless your grades/MCAT scores are way high or way low). your activities and your LORs tell a story about your commitment to medicine, and that's almost as important as your objective performance at the end of the day.

    trust me. i have some good friends on adcom.
  4. DrLizzie

    DrLizzie Still in the game 7+ Year Member

    Feb 5, 2006
    I'm not sure who told you that, but LORs are very important. If they actually are from people that know you and can write a very strong letter, then anything that might seem a bit weak can come through in the letter and how these writer's percieve your strengths, and determination in the field of medicine. Also, be wary of asking a professor that knows you only through your grade or student id number, they can actually hurt you.

    I have been told by adcoms that LORs actually gives them a perception of you from people that have worked with you in a much better light then the 1 day interview sessions that they have. Also, know that the letters are usually confidential, so the writers can really say anything that they want, which is the point.

    If you have good letter writers, then you're good! If you at the start of your application cycle don't know who to ask or you randomly pick a bio 101 professor that you had your freshmen year along with 200 students, don't expect the letter to be of any help to you in establishing you as an outstanding applicant. The problem that I have seen when I was a TA was that there were a lot of pre med students that never thought of asking professors until may/june around the time when they needed to put their application together, and the fact that they never established relationships with professors made it very difficult for them to even have a professor write a recommendation, so make sure you start early.

    Good luck!
  5. Davjc2009

    Davjc2009 2+ Year Member

    Jan 2, 2007
    My views of LORs are pretty much similar to my opinions of final exams...

    For the most part, if they're good, they usually don't help you out too much, but if they're bad, they can really hurt you.
  6. gsmithers68

    gsmithers68 2+ Year Member

    Nov 29, 2006
    They do play a role in your admission. That's why you need to write yourself awesome LORs and have your profs sign them off for you :smuggrin: :smuggrin:

    Your friends are idiots. LORs are a big deal. The better they are the more they make you unique... period.
  7. Dr OCD

    Dr OCD Junior Member 7+ Year Member

    Apr 5, 2005
    wow you must feel really good about yourself, being able to write raving letters about yourself. good luck out there buddy.
  8. mikeinsd

    mikeinsd predictably unpredictable 2+ Year Member

    Nov 4, 2006
    uummmmm... not quite

    my letters were an integral part of my app... people who say they are worthless have worthless letters, plain and simple (and i believe that is likely a large number of people, which is why a really good set will make you stand out, absolutely)

    i do agree though that a bad letter could be a death sentence, i have no evidence there, but that seems logical
  9. Tired Pigeon

    Tired Pigeon 7+ Year Member

    Jan 27, 2007
    LORs are an opportunity & you should treat them as such: good letters (strong recommendations with personal detail) can really strengthen an application. On the other hand, one red flag in just one letter can sink an application.

    For many (most?) people, LORs are neither helpful nor harmful, because they're standard, mediocre letters written by people who don't know them very well.
  10. soeagerun2or

    soeagerun2or Banned Banned 2+ Year Member

    Sep 27, 2006
    Actually, he hit it right on the head. Letters help rarely, the majority are the same old cliche's recycled, and a bad letter will hurt you. Much like a class where you need a 99% on the final to get an A, a 40-98% to maintain a B, and < 40% to get a C.
  11. paranoid_eyes

    paranoid_eyes 2+ Year Member

    Sep 18, 2006
    why would they ask for them if they didn't matter??? adcomms are going to read the LORs, so if your LOR makes you out to be the devil, you will not get in even if you have a 4.0 and a 40mcat.

    however, in your case, the LORs prolly make you out to be a good person who is genuinely interested in medicine. This, believe it or not, will help you a great deal. Once you start practicing medicine, the majority of your time will be spent interacting with patients (yes even you future surgeons). LORs reflect, along with ur interview, this ability.
  12. Davjc2009

    Davjc2009 2+ Year Member

    Jan 2, 2007

    I said "for the most part." MOST letters aren't great. Professors who write LORs see the kids in class, maybe in office hours, have seen their CV's and transcript, maybe even know that they're brilliant. But your grades and MCAT show that you're brilliant. They know you work hard, that's obvious by your grades. Most kids don't get As in upper level sciences without effort. Most professors don't have time to "really" get to know someone.

    As I was saying, LORs rarely help much (as in they aren't going to overcome subpar GPA or MCAT). But they have the ability to really hurt you if a letter writer tells about how (s)he had the nagging suspicion that you have cheated or is a douchebag to peers.
  13. 63768

    63768 Guest 2+ Year Member

    Mar 5, 2005
    whether LORs matter or not, applying to med school is a long, laborious process. why not put forth effort to make every part of it shine?

    and yea, a lot of letters will probably be pre-written or half-assed, but that's why you should find a prof that you've developed a relationship with.
  14. whatintheworld?

    whatintheworld? New Member 2+ Year Member

    Jul 6, 2006
    At one of my interviews, my interviewer actually pulled up my LORs on his computer and asked me things about the people who wrote them!

    Yes, they are important!!
  15. Vano

    Vano 7+ Year Member

    Feb 26, 2007
    At one of my interviews, the interviewer particularly discussed my LORs and how they portrayed me in great light--got my acceptance letter 9 days later.
  16. Sinfekl

    Sinfekl 2+ Year Member

    Apr 10, 2007
    You know whats really unfortunate...everyone writes the same platitudes, and what makes a great letter is not necessarily the content of it, but the writing abilities and professional status of the writer, both of which have nothing to do with the candidate him/herself. If your letter comes from your involvment in a really interesting service project, then that can be a great letter, but whether a letter from a research advisor or chem prof is great is dependant more on the professor's abilities than the student's.

    Honestly, I'd get at least one letter of rec from an English professor just because they know how to write a meaningful, interesting letter.
  17. armybound

    armybound future urologist. Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Jan 1, 2007
    I tend to agree.
  18. Depakote

    Depakote Pediatric Anesthesiologist Rocket Scientist Physician Moderator Emeritus Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

    Many times they are an unseen part of the admissions process, but that doesn't mean they aren't working for you... or against you.

    Lots of schools go off of points systems. This means that every aspect of your application gets a set point value, including your LORs. The stronger your LORs the more points you get towards that acceptance.
  19. brianmartin

    brianmartin 10+ Year Member

    Nov 12, 2006
    Yakima, WA
    Many letters will be from professors that don't really know the student. Even students who go to office hours and ask questions in class, still don't really "know" their professor. Personally, I don't see the point in getting these kinds of letters, but I will because they are "required."

    If you have at least 2 really strong letters, you will stand out. For example, a letter from a professor who really knows you and thought you were the best student in their class. Or from a clinical job where you really had to work hard. Or a long-term volunteer experience. I don't think you can get accepted without at least a few of these good letters.

    Bad letters hurt. For example, maybe you took a class and came off as pretentious to the professor, or perhaps you slacked in your volunteering and somebody noticed.

    Personally, I think the letter requirement exists as a check on your claims. It forces you to prove that you actually did the things you put on your app (and did them well). Anybody could say they volunteered at all these places and had this clinical job, but without proof it doesn't really mean anything. The letter proves you aren't lying.
  20. AnEyeLikeMars

    AnEyeLikeMars Member 7+ Year Member

    Dec 2, 2005
    Carrboro, NC
    I don't think that's the purpose at all. The required letters are academic (I don't know of any school that specifically requires a non-academic letter, but they may be some out there). They don't require letters for your ECs, so verifying ECs can't be the purpose of the requirement.

    Med school admissions is very competitive so schools want to know as much about the applicant as is reasonably possible. LORs are one piece of that puzzle. Since the vast majority of letters are positive, they are probably not given too much weight unless they stand out because they're especially glowing or bad.
  21. spicedmanna

    spicedmanna Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

    Of course LOR's matter. They are only one aspect of a complete application, however. You really need to take everything together. It's relative importance as part of a complete application is likely to be somewhat school dependent as well. That said, mediocre LOR's probably won't hurt you, but they won't help you either. Both excellent and poor (negative) recommendations can make a significant impact.
  22. gary5

    gary5 Senior Member 7+ Year Member

    Sep 24, 2003
    LORs definitely matter. Good ones will get you in, and poor ones will keep you out.
  23. cleothecat

    cleothecat 10+ Year Member

    Feb 1, 2007
    A bad LOR will cause severe damage to what is otherwise a strong application.

    ADCOMS are risk averse. They often would rather take a pass if even one LOR is negative.
  24. DoctaJay

    DoctaJay bone breaker Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    San Diego
    YES, they matter. Whoever told you they don't didn't want you to get into medical school. You can lie and say whatever you want on your AMCAS application, but your LORs back up what you are saying about yourself on your AMCAS app. Treat these things seriously and you will do well.
  25. brianmartin

    brianmartin 10+ Year Member

    Nov 12, 2006
    Yakima, WA
    Actually there are a few..

    University of Utah: 6 letters required; three academic (one science), three supervisor (community or volunteer)

    Medical College of Georgia: 3 letters required; at least one from health professions advisor and one from physician
  26. incognita


    May 5, 2007
    I am sort of new to all this. Can anyone explain to me why on earth would someone write you a bad letter of recommendation. I mean, if they are unhappy with your performance, wouldn't they just decline your request to write you a rec. Isn't that better than screwing you over by writing negative comments?
  27. alwaysaangel

    alwaysaangel 5+ Year Member

    Sep 4, 2006
    Orange, CA
    Because some professors/bosses are dicks. Thats about the only reason. But "bad letters" are pretty rare. More likely you'd get a luke warm letter that shows they either know nothing about you or weren't terribly impressed with you and basically wrote you a form letter.

    Or they will say mostly nice things about you but stick in "most arrogant pre-med I've ever encountered" because its true. Yes, its a dick thing to do but it happens.

    Its why you should always ask a professor if they feel comfortable writing you a very strong letter of recommendation.
  28. spicedmanna

    spicedmanna Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

    It's rare to get one, but I think in many instances, people are basically asking for it when they receive a poor letter of recommendation. I think it's pretty easy to tell when someone is for you and your ally in the process. I guess every once in a while it's possible to get blind-sided, but more often than not, we simply override our negative gut feeling about asking someone for a recommendation letter.

    I agree, however, that the honorable thing to do would be to be upfront with the person who is requesting the recommendation about your inability to recommend them without any reservation. Not everyone is that honorable. On the other hand, I imagine that some recommenders feel that they have a duty to make it known that a student is not suitable for medicine.

    Yet, I'd think you'd have to really leave a negative impression on someone for them to feel that they have this kind of duty or that they would need to react in a negative way by writing a poor letter. What are the chances of you asking someone to write you a letter knowing this? That's why I think most people who receive negative letters weren't listening to themselves and, perhaps, to others, too. In any case, don't request a letter from someone who you aren't absolutely positive is your ally and will be able to recommend you strongly, without reservation.
  29. emaj1n

    emaj1n M1 2+ Year Member

    Oct 16, 2006
    I agree about the possibility LORs have to really hurt your application. I think LORs are mainly used as a way to search for warning signs. Yes they can help, but their main function might be to just not to screw you over. And to those who say LORs definitely help, keep in mind that by not hurting, they are definitely helping.
  30. mikeinsd

    mikeinsd predictably unpredictable 2+ Year Member

    Nov 4, 2006
    when an interviewer said to me "now how about this thing you did... it was in one of your letters and it really stuck out for me, tell me about it" thats when i realized that my strong letters were helping me... (and doing much more than not hurting)

    i realize though that I was lucky in the way my letters came out, and that for a majority of people they best letter they can hope for is one that wont hurt... I just think anyone who says they cant really help is missing the point a little, they can help a lot, butter they better be darn good to do so :D

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