emiko

10+ Year Member
Feb 8, 2008
58
7
251
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Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
Hi everyone, I have a question about the required letters for med school. I know that most schools ask for 2 letters from science professors and 1 from a non-science professor. Some schools even specifically says students should submit letters from whom they have taken lecture courses with. I am a junior and plan to apply for MD/PhD this summer and here's the list of people whom I am going to ask letters from (my school doesn't have a committee)

3 from research PIs (different labs)
1 from a professor whom I took a seminar course with (MCB)
1 from a English professor
1 from my departmental adviser (I was hoping she could write something that would compare me with all the students she has seem in the dept.)
Possibly 1 or 2 other letters from physician-scientists whom I shadowed.

So...I am kind of nervous about the 2 "science lecture course" professor requirement. I feel that my PIs would be more suitable to make comments about me that could potentially be useful to the admission committee since they know me much better than any of the profs whom I took classes with. I did well in my science classes and that is shown on my transcript I guess (GPA~ 3.9). However, I am definitely not one of those students who always keep up with the lecture and set curves on midterms. I am more like the students who do okay on tests (~1 SD above mean) and eventually get an A, but never set the curve to catch special attention or anything. I didn't really go to OH all that much neither b/c I tend to cramp before tests... and I almost never kept up with the lecture. However, I am certain that my PIs would give me very strong letters making positive comments. I wonder if schools would just reject me for not strictly follow their guideline on sending in letters. Does anyone have experience with this? Thanks!
 
Dec 31, 2009
91
0
0
Pittsburgh, PA
Status
MD/PhD Student
1) if you have solid letters all around, you can email schools and ask for exceptions. For me, I didn't have a non-science letter, but I did have my pre-med advisor who ran an internship type class with weekly seminar that I got a school to accept in substitution.

2) If you have the option to get university credits (which you probably don't need to graduate) for some research time, you can do that then count your letter as from someone who oversaw your research and over saw BIO 498 or whatever your research credits are called. It's more honest if your research credits involve something additional like a report or something class-ish. I did that and no one complained.
 

emiko

10+ Year Member
Feb 8, 2008
58
7
251
Status
Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
Hm I did get credits for doing research at my home institution and it definitely involves writing reports since we will be writing a paper this summer and I will also work on my honors thesis.

So do you guys think 1 science seminar professor + 1 research (with academic credits) will satisfy this requirement? Also.. would I actually have to check in with the schools or they would just decide to offer me interview or not based on if they are okay w/ this situation
 
Dec 31, 2009
91
0
0
Pittsburgh, PA
Status
MD/PhD Student
The way I had my mentor phrase it is something to the effect of "I oversaw ... in the courses BIO 498 (independent research) and BIO 499 (honors thesis) in which he gave a [great adjective] performance that reflected his commitment to [something]". The schools all had my transcripts, and I didn't hear anyone complain about anything. People can chime in if they think otherwise, but I'd say it would probably be fine. Especially, if this person has good things to say about you in general.

A science course prof LoR should not just be about your grade in the class, but should point to examples of things you did in particular in the class, or be personalized to outside interactions you've had with the writer. If you don't feel like you have a second science writer besides your research mentor to do that, get on contacting a prof where you got an A in the class who knows you best and ask if you can meet with him a few times before writing a LoR or turn in some sort of purpose statement and CV for him to use as a guide (request phrased in a way that is offering, not telling him/her what to do, just giving options for their convenience, of course). When I met with one of my science writers, I brought a folder for him to keep with my CV, PS, and a 1 page executive summary on top with things really easily laid out and key things bolded. I don't know what he used, but he had it all available "for his convenience". Figure out what fits your style though, you may feel that is too pushy or something.

Good luck!
 
Dec 16, 2009
25
0
0
Status
Medical Student
Personally, I had trouble finding a non-science letter and ended up only submitting research and science prof letters. I didn't seem to have a problem at the programs I applied to.
 

CielloStelatto

Non-member
10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Mar 18, 2009
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1
141
Status
I, too, had done research (one as "independent research" and one as a thesis) with two science professors at my schools, from whom I had taken 1 and 4 classes with... it worked fine for me to count them as both sci prof and research pi.
 

emiko

10+ Year Member
Feb 8, 2008
58
7
251
Status
Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
So did you guys actually contact the programs you applied to and explained to them why you didn't submit the required letters, or you just submit it and didn't get complaints from schools?
 

Shifty B

10+ Year Member
Aug 13, 2008
452
96
271
Status
Attending Physician
I would just send them in. If you contact the program coordinator and say,

"I read about rule X on your web site. Can I break rule X?"

What do you think is going to happen. He's going to say, "Nope, can't break rule X. No exceptions."

Just remember that these things are guidelines and no one is checking your letters against a list to make sure that your science professor that wrote you a letter actually taught your class or oversaw your research. That doesn't matter. However, if they want 2 letters from science faculty and 1 from a non-science faculty, then oblige them. They would like to see that you did well in a non-science setting.