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Tildy

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So this may sound like an odd question, seeing as I'm striving to enter into a profession in which interpersonal skills are a crucial aspect of the job description, but I need a bit of advice...

So a while ago (age 11/12) I was diagnosed with a combo of social anxiety disorder/depression/ADHD, some thought it was mild asperger's, that wasn't ever confirmed. Although I was considered borderline-gifted, I'd exhibit asocial behavior that interfered with most interpersonal relationships. I was put on meds for the blues and the ADD, but the social anxiety thing never really cleared up...

Fast forward 11 years, I'm finding myself in need of LOR's from my science profs but I'm having an enormously difficult time getting to know them/asking for LOR's.
I know what you have to do to get them:
1. Attend office hours just to "shoot the ****"
2. Work in their lab
3 Engage them outside of class (sports, bars, whatever)

But I'm finding that every time I even begin to attempt this I just....fail.
Miserably.

I'll attend office hours, ask them a question about something that I actually completely understood, then there's an awkward lul in the conversation, at which point I panic, bid them farewell, and walk away completely and utterly embarassed.

The profs I have tried to get to know have flat out refused to write me a letter, despite 4.0's in their classes, which must indicate how....weird.. I come off.

I researched in a path. lab for a year, but I'm worried that if I ask my P.I for a letter it:
A. Won't count towards the science prereq, since it's just research
B. Will read: "x is a bright, motivated student and a pleasure to have in the lab, but I can't comment on him personally because we've never talked about anything other than work."

I'm frankly running out of ideas about how to pull this off. I completely lack the ability to schmooze or even socialize normally; I just...don't...get it. I can't fake being interested in someone or something I'm not and right now this is the only thing holding back my application for the upcomming cycle.

Any techniques/advice/recommendations would be sincerely appreciated
 

phillyfornia

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i didn't really get the chance to know any of my profs in college either. it can be tough to do--even without social anxiety. what i ended up doing was just e-mailing random professors whose classes i did well in. if you attend a big college, the profs are used to having randoms contact them for letters of recs. i eventually found a few that were cool enough to write letters of recs. they just wanted a copy of my CV and to maybe meet with me in person for a little bit to talk. i'm sure that the letters weren't glowing or personalized but they were enough to get me into med school.

i realize that my method wasn't the ideal way to get strong letters but it's better than nothing. also, once you get a few letters in your file you won't have to stress as much and it becomes easier to get other letters.
 

Shalom77

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I don't know how big your science classes were, but it may not be that your science professors thought you were "weird" but didn't feel they know you very well. With a large class and a student who only asks a brief question during office hours might not be that memorable.

I'm not in the know about what "counts," but I can't see why a letter from the path professor wouldn't. I would set up an appointment, send him/her a copy of a draft of your med school essay and a CV that not only outlines your academic accomplishments but also contains info on your extracurriculars. Your PI might not know much about you personally, but that's information you can provide them. Since social interactions can be challenging for you, I recommend giving that information in writing before meeting with your PI to discuss the recommendation letter.
 

Borophyll

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Wow. That sounds - word for word - as if I wrote it (though I didn't). My younger brothers were both diagnosed with psych problems- depression/ADHD for one, mild asbergers for the other. And now I'm beginning to think I've had similar problems all along as well, but I was too tough on myself to seek help.

I also never sought help in classes because- to be honest, I never really needed to. If I was challenged by something I just worked my way through it, which I think is great for improving your maturity and study skills, but horrible for networking and social skills. In class I would often ask meaningful questions and participated during discussions, but that was about the extent of my interaction with professors. This has all become painfully clear when I look back on four years of school. And although all of my professors undoubtedly know me by name, we really don't have much to say to each other...:(

Soo...I emphathize with you, mystery poster, and look forward to reading the advice people offer in this thread. Also feel free to PM me if you want to talk.
 
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WannaBeDrMe

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I have very similar anxiety about contacting former professors. As well as some legit reasons not to contact some! My first grad school advisor was FIRED/forced to resign...

I just wanted to send good wishes. Stay strong, you can do this...
 

nu2004

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i think frank honesty goes a long way towards clearing up a situation like this. if the person quoted were to write a letter or email very similary to the one quoted to the professors from whom he/she wants a LOR, i imagine that they would be much more receptive, and have no trouble writing a strictly academic-oriented letter for someone with "4.0's" in their classes. i'm surprised he/she hasn't tried this approach yet.
 

Strength&Speed

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i am in full agreement with being frankly honest with yourself. you dont like small talk, you arent good at it. thats ok. go in there with a question you truly dont understand and ask a question about it. share something about yourself that you like outside of class. it doesnt have to be witty or funny or anything else. or comment about something that is in the professors room. oh...you like...blah blah blah. conversation is a way of exchanging information. you shouldnt feel like you are doing stand up or trying to kiss ***...just exhanging information. and im sure you have interesting and worthwhile things to say if you just let it out.

oh, and get the letter from your p.i. people dont care if they were a teacher or not in your classes. they are science professor, and they are writing you a letter, thats good enough.
 
A

arezzo

I agree with the frank honesty, but I wanted to add that (just like in real life) it's much easier to make friends/form connections if you can get the other person to talk about themselves for the majority of the conversation. Most people know this rule and don't always follow it. I won't except myself :p

Obviously in this kind of situation the objective is to get to know you better in order to write a more personalized LOR, but I think you can approach it similarly. Most schools list their professors alumnae online, and many even have a link to the professors' website. Use that, your memory of class experiences, and even old syllabi to gather what you can about what this person is interested in.

Ask them questions about that, and then keep relating it back to what you have in common/are curious about. It will be much easier for them to write this letter if they feel like you are coming from the same point of origin (not advising you to lie, but you get the idea--you must have at least one shared professional interest they can expound upon!).

I hope this doesn't sound condescending or blatantly obvious. I feel your anxiety. You'll be fine. Go kick butt :hardy:
 

RugbyJC

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This may sound a little corny, but do you have a friend or someone you can practice with? Practice what you would say when you approach a faculty member if they wanted to meet with you after requesting a LOR or even before hand for office hours or small talk? Someone who is honest, not condecending, and can at least give you some feedback or confidence? Heck, id even do it over the phone with you if you thought it would help.

I agree with the sending an email part, but sometimes they want to meet you in person too...and med school admissions will require an interview. I think "social skills training" is what its called or something like that. Its partially rehearsing your answers and partially just getting more comfortable talking to people.

Just a suggestion.
 

Tildy

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posted anonymously

i didn't really get the chance to know any of my profs in college either. it can be tough to do--even without social anxiety. what i ended up doing was just e-mailing random professors whose classes i did well in. if you attend a big college, the profs are used to having randoms contact them for letters of recs. i eventually found a few that were cool enough to write letters of recs. they just wanted a copy of my CV and to maybe meet with me in person for a little bit to talk. i'm sure that the letters weren't glowing or personalized but they were enough to get me into med school.

i realize that my method wasn't the ideal way to get strong letters but it's better than nothing. also, once you get a few letters in your file you won't have to stress as much and it becomes easier to get other letters.


Thanks for this post, makes me feel a LOT better as I'm pretty sure this is what I'm going to end up doing. I'm still really worried about it.

I never took a single science class with less than 400 people in it (I pretty much only took basic sciences, my major is in arts). I thought I'd be okay with only Arts letters, but I just realized I need science ones too. Are 3 great non-sci letters plus 1 random "never met this person in my life, but she got an A in all my classes..." science one to meet the requirement going to be a serious problem?

Help :oops: