mx21

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Feb 23, 2010
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am i at a disadvantage if i only send in 3 letters? aka compared to some of the crazy overachievers who send in like 6-7 letters? is it really "quality" over "quantity"?

i've already asked two science professors (took class with them and TA'ed with them) and an instructor that i took a U.S. health care class with. one should be SUPER amazing and the other two should be pretty good too ...

even though ive worked in my PI's lab for a year and full-time during the summer, i think my chances look grim from getting a letter from him because hes not too keen on giving out letters with people less than 2 years of work in his lab :rolleyes::thumbdown:mad: seriously, they got so many freakin hours of unpaid work out of me!! :thumbdown: so without that fourth letter, i'd be stuck at three =T.
 

organdonor

7+ Year Member
Jul 29, 2009
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You need two letters from science faculty and one from non science faculty. One from an employer/volunteer coordinator/researcher wouldn't hurt. All other letters are extraneous. The adcoms have enough to read without your/their 4 extra letters.
 

rHinO1

Grindin' Until I'm Tired
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Feb 20, 2009
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Minimum:
2 science professors
1 non-science professor

Include if you have them:
Research mentor
employer or volunteer supervisor if the experience was significant
 

noshie

Don't judge!
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Mar 23, 2006
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Its about quality, not quantity. I applied twice before and I had around 5 letters each time (MD, MD, DO, PhD, Volunteer). This time I am cutting back to 3 letters (MD, DO, PhD), however these are from people that wrote something more personal, and they are better letters in general. I would recommend getting 3-4 letters from people that you know will write the most personal stories in support of your application.
 

noshie

Don't judge!
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Mar 23, 2006
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Oh and try to get one from your PI. Did you actually ask him? Or are you assuming he won’t do it? If you ask him in a professional enough manner, by a formal letter with your CV or resume attached he may actually do it. However, if you get the vibe he doesn’t want to write you a letter it may just be because he doesn’t think you deserve one. The physician I work for wrote me a letter after two months of working with him, and it was just about the best letter I have ever read. But he wouldn’t write one for another person that asked that has worked for him for about a year because he didn’t think she earned it, though he told her that wasn’t the reason.

Just working in a lab for free and thinking you deserve something for it reminds me of a poster I have in my office that says:
Worth- Just because you’re necessary doesn’t mean you’re important.

But I know what you mean about research, they pretty much just use you and try to give as little as they can in return…
 

mx21

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yeah, I've definitely thought about it. My PI has really high expectations and expects everyone to not only do the labwork, but to contribute intellectually. I've been really hardworking about the labwork part, and I think all the post-docs can attest to that when they see me coming in everday and over weekends or at night, but the project is very difficult for me to contribute intellectually to because I don't have a lot of background in the field. I'm still a bit frustrated though because now I feel that all that work was put to waste on my part...
 
Oct 24, 2009
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am i at a disadvantage if i only send in 3 letters? aka compared to some of the crazy overachievers who send in like 6-7 letters? is it really "quality" over "quantity"?

i've already asked two science professors (took class with them and TA'ed with them) and an instructor that i took a U.S. health care class with. one should be SUPER amazing and the other two should be pretty good too ...

even though ive worked in my PI's lab for a year and full-time during the summer, i think my chances look grim from getting a letter from him because hes not too keen on giving out letters with people less than 2 years of work in his lab :rolleyes::thumbdown:mad: seriously, they got so many freakin hours of unpaid work out of me!! :thumbdown: so without that fourth letter, i'd be stuck at three =T.
I agree.. its not about the number of LORs instead its about the quality. But then again, I had 6 QUALITY LORs that were really personal and elaborated on all the various aspects of my ECs/life story..
 

noshie

Don't judge!
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Mar 23, 2006
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yeah, I've definitely thought about it. My PI has really high expectations and expects everyone to not only do the labwork, but to contribute intellectually. I've been really hardworking about the labwork part, and I think all the post-docs can attest to that when they see me coming in everday and over weekends or at night, but the project is very difficult for me to contribute intellectually to because I don't have a lot of background in the field. I'm still a bit frustrated though because now I feel that all that work was put to waste on my part...
When I started graduate school I felt the same way about being able to contribute with my own ideas. It was hard to figure out what I was doing and why I was doing it at first, but I just sat down and pulled dozens of papers published on the type of work I was doing and read as many as I could. It’s not easy reading things like that when it’s over your head, but you need to analyze the words they are using and literally "wiki" it if you don’t understand some of them. I was even just randomly reading out of textbooks trying to figure it out. When you do an experiment know why you are doing it and what each step means on a biological level.

I think if you go into lab and show that you are making an effort and that you truly want to learn everything it will make all the difference in how your PI perceives you. I mean, I by no means like basic research, it freaking sucks. But I went in, did the research and was as enthusiastic as I could be about it. In the end I graduated with honors because of my work and attitude, and even though I hated every minute of it I wouldn’t have traded this experience for the world. My advice is take advantage of this opportunity to think outside the box with your own ideas, you will not only gain confidence but respect from your peers.
 

Sesom

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Feb 28, 2010
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My only state school, University of Utah, requires 6. So for me it is 6 minimum. I think it is overboard though.