*~*~*~*Official Letters of Recommendation Questions Thread 2018-2019*~*~*~*

gonnif

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Will a letter from a graduate student who taught a non-science course herself, not TA, at the university fulfill the non-science prof letter requirement? It's the best one I got. Any other non-science letter will just talk about an A grade and attendance. There was no PhD instructor in the course.
Yes it will fulfill the requirement. I would suggesting getting the instructors supervisor or dept chair to co-sign
 
Jul 12, 2015
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Hi Gonnif,

I am planning on asking my behavorial neuroscience professor for a recommendation letter. The course is, in my judgement, more science than nonscience (i.e. we cover action potentials, perceptual systems, neurological pathways). The professor’s title is Chair of Behavorial Neuroscience. However, the course is listed under the Psychology department and I do not know the policy for letter of recommendations (I know science GPA classification is usually by course content). What would you recommend I do to ensure this is classified as a science letter? The distinction seems very arbitrary honestly when it comes to neuroscience/psychology.
 

gonnif

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Hi Gonnif,

I am planning on asking my behavorial neuroscience professor for a recommendation letter. The course is, in my judgement, more science than nonscience (i.e. we cover action potentials, perceptual systems, neurological pathways). The professor’s title is Chair of Behavorial Neuroscience. However, the course is listed under the Psychology department and I do not know the policy for letter of recommendations (I know science GPA classification is usually by course content). What would you recommend I do to ensure this is classified as a science letter? The distinction seems very arbitrary honestly when it comes to neuroscience/psychology.

There are three issues here:

1) What are the requirements for an LOR/LOE?

Each medical school has specific requirements which typically fall into ONE of the following categories:

A) Individual Letters from 2 professors/instructors you have taken science classes with and 1 non-science professors/instructors you have taken a class with.
OR
B) Individual Letters from 2 science and 1 non-science faculty
OR
C) Prehealth Committee letter

This would mean, for example, that a professor you had a research job with wouldn't fill LOR requirement at schools which want A (class) but would fill B (faculty). Please note that these are typical requirements generally found at most schools; some schools have very specific and extensive letters required and it is up to you to know them.

2) For purposes of LOR/LOE, what is science?

Many applicants equate "science" with AMCAS "BCPM". This is not always accurate. Science for purposes LOR/LOE is what "normal" science would be at a college or university. This would include Biology, Chemistry, and Physics, certainty. But it would also include Oceanography, Geology, or even Computer Science and Materials Sciences. Under this general theme most health and medical science fields could be considered science. What about engineering and math generally? They can actually be framed either way, which usually depends more on the background of the candidate than anything else (ie what professors has the applicant worked with.). But more on this later. You should note that there are some schools that have very specific faculty/courses that they will consider science, even if BCPM as CWRU shows

3)How can I judge if a letter writer fits a science or non-science criteria?

Applicants who need to look at this issue must do something that few seem to do: use their judgement. You can look at the degree the letter writer holds, the department to which they are faculty, and the title/position they hold within that department. Perhaps even more telling is the course that you may have taken So Dr. John Smith, PhD, Professor of Behavioral Neurosciences, Department of Psychology teaching a course -- PSYCH 402: Molecular Neurochemistry of Abnormal Psychology, would clearly be a sciences letter even though the professor and the course are from the psychology department. Another example would be Dr. Bob Jones, PhD, Associate Professor of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology, Department of Exercise Science and Sport Studies teaching a course -- EXPHYS 340: physiological responses in sports training. Again, certainly science work even though it is an Exercise Science course and department. So use your judgement on these.

In sum, getting a letter from a professor who knows you well and can write a critical evaluation of you is much more important than the strict interpretation science but it is up to the applicant to check that he/she is fulfilling specific requirements at each individual school they apply to
 
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Jul 12, 2015
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Thanks Gonnif. Very helpful response! In my judgement I will classify this as a science letter seeing as the course is bio-heavy and the Professor holds appointments in the SOM...
 

Flying Penguin

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I am worried about finding people to write letters for me... junior applying in ~2 years
1. I have volunteered and worked extensively as an employee in my university hospital, but they (volunteer coordinator & employer) have clearly stated from the beginning that they do not write letters of rec due to a university policy. (nevertheless, I do not regret committing as I had great experiences)
2. I also work for our university science learning center, but there's a lot of us working and thus a bit hard to make an impression on my employer. I can of course do my best from here on out.
3. Haven't quite connected with a non-science professor yet.

On the bright side, I think I can get 2 science letters alright, along with a good letter from my PI.

Should I be fretting more & buckling down on seeking out potential letter writers?
 
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gonnif

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I am worried about finding people to write letters for me... junior applying in ~2 years
1. I have volunteered and worked extensively as an employee in my university hospital, but they (volunteer coordinator & employer) have clearly stated from the beginning that they do not write letters of rec due to a university policy. (nevertheless, I do not regret committing as I had great experiences)
2. I also work for our university science learning center, but there's a lot of us working and thus a bit hard to make an impression on my employer. I can of course do my best from here on out.
3. Haven't quite connected with a non-science professor yet.

On the bright side, I think I can get 2 science letters alright, along with a good letter from my PI.

Should I be fretting more & buckling down on seeking out potential letter writers?

You need 2 science letters from faculty and/or course instructors. Neither the volunteer job or even the science center fit that as primary letters. Go talk to your Bio, Chem, Organic, Physics profs
 
Jun 19, 2018
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Getting letters from PhDs who are non-faculty/non-professor (their title is lecturer) - is this okay? I have a really, really strong science letter lined up but it would be coming from a lecturer, and many schools specifically list faculty and/or professor in their requirements
 

gonnif

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Getting letters from PhDs who are non-faculty/non-professor (their title is lecturer) - is this okay? I have a really, really strong science letter lined up but it would be coming from a lecturer, and many schools specifically list faculty and/or professor in their requirements
1) the letter should be fine
2) you can see if the PhD can have it countersigned by his/her dept chair or faculty supervisor
 
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Lardy Boy

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Can I take a course at my local CC to obtain science and non science letters? in a different state. No connection with any instructors from my undergrad. If i do ask my undergrad, they will be generic.
 
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Any advice on asking professors for updated LORs. I'm going to re-apply, and my science professors' letters are dated 2016.
 

gonnif

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Any advice on asking professors for updated LORs. I'm going to re-apply, and my science professors' letters are dated 2016.
Just ask. There seems be a great reluctance on the part of many premeds to ask for an updated letter. Dont be, professor already supported you and will glad to do it again
 
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If one of my professors asks for transcript but I don't want to give them transcript should I ask another person to write my letter or hope they don't mind the bad (still passing) grades I got freshman year?
This to me seems like an odd question - we have a centralized degree planner that every professor can log in to and take a look at your past course history and intended future course history.
 

gonnif

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Can I take a course at my local CC to obtain science and non science letters? in a different state. No connection with any instructors from my undergrad. If i do ask my undergrad, they will be generic.

Yes but then the question of why you didnt get from home institution? Why did you need to take a later CC course just to get a letter? Does that mean you had such s terrible reputation that you couldnt get a prof to write you any? Most applicants get generic and just raking a course to get a letter has risks
 

gonnif

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If one of my professors asks for transcript but I don't want to give them transcript should I ask another person to write my letter or hope they don't mind the bad (still passing) grades I got freshman year?

Personally, I dont think professors should ask for transcripts as they should write from what they know about you but why are you worried? What skeletons do you have?
 

chaim123

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This to me seems like an odd question - we have a centralized degree planner that every professor can log in to and take a look at your past course history and intended future course history.

At many schools, this is only available to certain faculty (major/concentration advisors, central advising etc), and is only meant to be viewed in line with FERPA law. A professor taking a gander at your transcript without a valid reason breaks FERPA just as a doctor could be breaking HIPAA.
 
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AquaticSunrise13

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Just ask. There seems be a great reluctance on the part of many premeds to ask for an updated letter. Dont be, professor already supported you and will glad to do it again

I definitely agree with this sentiment as I have my asked my professors for updated letters on more than one occasion.
 
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