mikhiel

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I just got back from being denied a recommendation from my Bio prof., on completely reasonable grounds, basically, the lack of personal familiarity. I totally understand, he doesn't want to write a generic letter, and I don't really want a generic letter. The problem is, one school (Tufts) specifically asks for a Biology professor recommendation. This is my first Bio class at this university (took the intro sequence at a community college a couple years ago), and I'll be applying for the 2005 cycle, so I want my application complete this summer. I'm taking another Bio class next quarter, which is basically my last chance, but it's another class the size of the one I'm in. Any recommendations on how to go about getting a recommendation?

I have a decent list of people I can get personal letters from, but none of them are faculty. Would a generic letter from a faculty member, coupled with a good one from a personal acquaintance in the research or dental field be enough?
 

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Here's my 2 cents:

For large classes, where you built rapport with your teaching assistant (and not your professor), you can have your teaching assistant write the letter of rec and have the professor cosign it. Some (perhaps many or most) dental schools will accept letters of rec written in this way, but you should double check with the dental schools directly.

Secondly, when asking for a letter of rec, you should make your request with these things on-hand: your personal statement, an academic resume (listing all your academic, research, work experience), and any other pertinent information that may help your writer compose a more informed letter. This way, you're helping to "guide" the way the letter of rec is written...and this will help put more "personality" into the rec.

Good luck,
H.
 

mikhiel

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thanks. I have another bio class next quarter, I'll get everything together and approach the professor early in the quarter.

is it ok to approach professors from classes you've already taken? Like, would I be able to go back to my OChem professors to ask?
 
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busdriver

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Originally posted by mikhiel

is it ok to approach professors from classes you've already taken? Like, would I be able to go back to my OChem professors to ask?

honestly, (and i think i've said this before on this forum somewhere), all my professors that i asked for letters of rec (2 total) i had never spoken a word to in my life. i asked both profs a couple quarters after i took their class so it's ok to ask past profs. like hbomb888 said, make sure u have your resume and personal statement so they can at least know some stuff about u. i just told them i was applying for dental school and was wondering if they could write a letter of rec for me. i didn't even get strong A's in their classes. one i had an A-, the other i had a B+. so yeah...anything is possible. oh yeah and i got into tufts so it's all good for you! good luck!!
 

marshall

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Originally posted by busdriver
honestly, (and i think i've said this before on this forum somewhere), all my professors that i asked for letters of rec (2 total) i had never spoken a word to in my life. i asked both profs a couple quarters after i took their class so it's ok to ask past profs. like hbomb888 said, make sure u have your resume and personal statement so they can at least know some stuff about u. i just told them i was applying for dental school and was wondering if they could write a letter of rec for me. i didn't even get strong A's in their classes. one i had an A-, the other i had a B+. so yeah...anything is possible. oh yeah and i got into tufts so it's all good for you! good luck!!

Hi,

I think that is really poor advice. Getting a strong letter of recommendation from someone that knows you is much more to your advantage than just someone that can say "this person performed this well in relation to other students". I would try to get to know your bio professor (go to office hours even if you don't need them). Show off if you're all that (don't appear pompous though).

Cheers,
Marshall
 

busdriver

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Originally posted by marshall


I think that is really poor advice. Getting a strong letter of recommendation from someone that knows you is much more to your advantage than just someone that can say "this person performed this well in relation to other students". I would try to get to know your bio professor (go to office hours even if you don't need them). Show off if you're all that (don't appear pompous though).

obviously, getting to know your prof and building up a relationship with him/her would be the best way to go. i'm not trying to tell the OP that what i did is the best way nor am i advising him/her to do it my way. i'm just saying that it is possible to get a rec letter from a prof that you've never even spoken a word to. btw to the OP, tufts told me that i needed a rec letter from either a math, physics or chem prof but i ended up not giving one to them (gave them a bio, psychology and two non-academic related rec letters) and still go accepted so it appears that this "required" rec letter might not be so required. but of course, if you can get the rec letter you should by all means try to do your best. i was just lazy and didn't want to go back a second time to talk to profs that i took classes for 2-3 years ago. good luck!!!
 

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My advice if you REALLY need a biology prof rec letter would be to befriend the prof. Make a habit of stopping by his office during office hours. Do that especially before exams and or other assignments and ask him questions. The prof needs to know who you are and that is the perfect one-on-one interaction you need to allow them to make a good 'value' judgement about you. Maybe even strike up a conversation about their Ph.D. and their area of research interest .... you would be sure to win their affection that way. You absolutely need to get in front of the prof with some one-on-one, face-to-face interaction. Every prof I have ever needed a rec letter from, I made an effort to meet them and talk to them ... I've never been turned down and all have written glowing rec letters.
 

marshall

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To be more constructive than my last post, try to get your research advisor to give you a strong LOR. The best way to do this is to get a decent advisor early on (sophomore year or earlier) and then find a class that he or she teaches and take that too.

That's what I did and now he can comment on my research experience and abilities but also my academic strengths because he has seen both. Plus he actually knows me now and I never had to go to an "office hour" but would just get a little face time in class and in lab. Of course, if you do poorly in his or her course that's probably not so good :)
 

mikhiel

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thanks everyone for the advice. For my Bio letter, I'm going to go ask my general bio teacher. I had him twice in the sequence, plus labs, and it was a community college, so he knew me since the class size was pretty small. And I kicked ass in his class. (hey, that rhymes)

Other science faculty might be a little difficult, since I don't really know them. I'm going to try and ask my next Bio teacher at the beginning of next quarter, and maybe my Genome Sciences teacher... we'll see. I'm also taking Physics, so that's a possibility too.
 
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