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Kevin SM

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While I have already applied, I was wondering what the role of the person writing the LoR has in the process.

For example, time and time again I have read on this forum that quality > position of recommender, however I was wondering what significance it would play if it was both quality and from the provost for example.

How about if the provost used to be a highly ranked staff member at one of the schools you applied to, would that make you more likely to get into that school.. etc?
 

Goro

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It's a common pre-med delusion that somehow the more prestige a LOR writer has, or is higher up in the food chain, then the letter somehow has more weight.

This is NOT true.

The meatiest LORs are ones are evaluate your academic prowess and your readiness for medical school, as well as your humanistic side. I don't care if it comes from an Ass't Prof or a Dep't Chair.

I've seen LORs from US Senators and Nobel laureates. They never helped marginal candidates.

And FYI, MD LORs are fluff, and treated as such by most MD schools.




While I have already applied, I was wondering what the role of the person writing the LoR has in the process.

For example, time and time again I have read on this forum that quality > position of recommender, however I was wondering what significance it would play if it was both quality and from the provost for example.

How about if the provost used to be a highly ranked staff member at one of the schools you applied to, would that make you more likely to get into that school.. etc?
 
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TheStallion16

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It's a common pre-med delusion that somehow the more prestige a LOR writer has, or is higher up in the food chain, then the letter somehow has more weight.

This is NOT true.

The meatiest LORs are ones are evaluate your academic prowess and your readiness for medical school, as well as your humanistic side. I don't care if it comes from an Ass't Prof or a Dep't Chair.

I've seen LORs from US Senators and Nobel laureates. They never helped marginal candidates.

And FYI, MD LORs are fluff, and treated as such by most MD schools.

I agree with this, but what if the letter comes from someone who has ties to that particular school that you're applying to. Say a physician at the hospital there, a faculty member, a prominent physician alumni of that school. What do you think about that type of case @Goro ?
 
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Goro

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Things like that get a little more attention from the Adcom,.....like this "Admissions Dean" "mhalm has a LOR from one of our alumni", but it's not going to push you over the accept line if you're a marginal candidate. An LOR from a current faculty (and I don't mean adjuncts) have a little more weight.



I agree with this, but what if the letter comes from someone who has ties to that particular school that you're applying to. Say a physician at the hospital there, a faculty member, a prominent physician alumni of that school. What do you think about that type of case @Goro ?
 
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Kevin SM

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Things like that get a little more attention from the Adcom,.....like this "Admissions Dean" "mhalm has a LOR from one of our alumni", but it's not going to push you over the accept line if you're a marginal candidate. An LOR from a current faculty (and I don't mean adjuncts) have a little more weight.
By no means am I asking if it helps a marginal candidate. I was just wondering if for example a top 20 would decide to choose you over a candidate w/ similar stats simply because the LoR you received was from a higher up administrator in said school. I feel that to build connections with the upper echelon of administrators at the university you attend or even at universities you dont attend helps show case leadership, ambition, etc and so for schools that want to breed leaders in the field such as top 20's etc that it MAY be relevant, but you're the expert here so I'll take what you say as the truth.
 

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Okay so if you get letter of recommendation from US presidents or something crazy like that then of course that has to have some sort of weight. But if you get an average letter from a well known Doc then that really won't help you. Quality of Letter > Reputation of writer
 
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Kevin SM

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Okay so if you get letter of recommendation from US presidents or something crazy like that then of course that has to have some sort of weight. But if you get an average letter from a well known Doc then that really won't help you. Quality of Letter > Reputation of writer
My question is what if you have both quality of letter as well as reputation of writer? would reputation make the quality even higher and allow ad coms to be impressed you maanged to make an impression on X higher up (provost, president of university, CFO, CTO, etc)
 

Lawpy

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    It's a common pre-med delusion that somehow the more prestige a LOR writer has, or is higher up in the food chain, then the letter somehow has more weight.

    This is NOT true.

    The meatiest LORs are ones are evaluate your academic prowess and your readiness for medical school, as well as your humanistic side. I don't care if it comes from an Ass't Prof or a Dep't Chair.

    I've seen LORs from US Senators and Nobel laureates. They never helped marginal candidates.

    And FYI, MD LORs are fluff, and treated as such by most MD schools.

    But this runs into conflict what @mimelim had advised

    Who the writer is.
    Who recommends your skills and abilities is important. Fundamentally, their credentials answer the question, "Why should I listen to what you have to say about this applicant?" A graduate student has 4 years of undergraduate experience and a couple of years TAing and living in a lab. A post doc has completed their graduate work and a couple more years of TAing. A first year assistant professor has experience in a classroom plus the afformentioned experience. The chair of a department has likely all of the above, plus years of teaching, plus
    years of dealing with department/university politics. When a post doc says that you are the best student they have seen, even if true, it leaves the posibility that you are simply better than the few students that the post doc can compare you to. On the other hand, when a tenured professor says the same things about you with a couple of decades worth of students to compare to, it is assumed that it is a little harder to impress them and thus their opinions carry more weight.

    If i'm misunderstanding this (which i may have), can you clarify where i went wrong?
     

    Goro

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    Let's call in our wise @LizzyM, since she works at a Really Top School. LizzyM, what say you?


    By no means am I asking if it helps a marginal candidate. I was just wondering if for example a top 20 would decide to choose you over a candidate w/ similar stats simply because the LoR you received was from a higher up administrator in said school. I feel that to build connections with the upper echelon of administrators at the university you attend or even at universities you dont attend helps show case leadership, ambition, etc and so for schools that want to breed leaders in the field such as top 20's etc that it MAY be relevant, but you're the expert here so I'll take what you say as the truth.
     

    markovchn123

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    My question is what if you have both quality of letter as well as reputation of writer? would reputation make the quality even higher and allow ad coms to be impressed you maanged to make an impression on X higher up (provost, president of university, CFO, CTO, etc)
    I would assume so but I'm not sure, you gotta ask an adcom
     

    Goro

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    Which conflicts with what the wise @gyngyn has written!

    But this runs into conflict what @mimelim had advised

    Who the writer is.
    Who recommends your skills and abilities is important. Fundamentally, their credentials answer the question, "Why should I listen to what you have to say about this applicant?" A graduate student has 4 years of undergraduate experience and a couple of years TAing and living in a lab. A post doc has completed their graduate work and a couple more years of TAing. A first year assistant professor has experience in a classroom plus the afformentioned experience. The chair of a department has likely all of the above, plus years of teaching, plus
    years of dealing with department/university politics. When a post doc says that you are the best student they have seen, even if true, it leaves the posibility that you are simply better than the few students that the post doc can compare you to. On the other hand, when a tenured professor says the same things about you with a couple of decades worth of students to compare to, it is assumed that it is a little harder to impress them and thus their opinions carry more weight.
     

    gyngyn

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    But this runs into conflict what @mimelim had advised

    Who the writer is.
    Who recommends your skills and abilities is important. Fundamentally, their credentials answer the question, "Why should I listen to what you have to say about this applicant?" A graduate student has 4 years of undergraduate experience and a couple of years TAing and living in a lab. A post doc has completed their graduate work and a couple more years of TAing. A first year assistant professor has experience in a classroom plus the afformentioned experience. The chair of a department has likely all of the above, plus years of teaching, plus
    years of dealing with department/university politics. When a post doc says that you are the best student they have seen, even if true, it leaves the posibility that you are simply better than the few students that the post doc can compare you to. On the other hand, when a tenured professor says the same things about you with a couple of decades worth of students to compare to, it is assumed that it is a little harder to impress them and thus their opinions carry more weight.

    If i'm misunderstanding this (which i may have), can you clarify where i went wrong?
    The writer's stature in the community means a lot more at the residency application level than it does at the medical school level.
     
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    gonnif

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    My question is what if you have both quality of letter as well as reputation of writer? would reputation make the quality even higher and allow ad coms to be impressed you maanged to make an impression on X higher up (provost, president of university, CFO, CTO, etc)

    All actions have consequences

    But quality of the letter needs to be understood. It isnt simply a great letter but that it shows strong evidence

    1) The writer has had an indepth academic/professional relationship with the applicant
    2) The writer has both the context and experience to evaluate the applicant
    3) The writer can express the evaluation noting characteristics via support from items #1 & #2

    In the order from least impactful to most impactful; letters need to be built in this manner
    1) Saying Good Things
    2) Saying Both Good and Bad Things
    3) Critically Evaluating the Applicant
    4) Critically Evaluating the Applicant from an academic/professional relationship
    5) Critically Evaluating the Applicant from academic/professional context and writer experience (ie professor)
    6) Having #5 with a strong position (ie Chair, Provost, etc)

    Note that having #6 is meaningless without all the rest built upon it. And if you look at from the opposite direction, getting to number 6 adds little to the evaluation

    Most importantly, note the opposite. What if you get the Nobel Prize winner on Campus to write you a letter without having done much with him or her? It can be seen not only as fluff by an adcom, but as name dropping or even perhaps trying to cover up another academic or personality weakness.
     
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    Kevin SM

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    All actions have consequences

    But quality of the letter needs to be understood. It isnt simply a great letter but that it shows strong evidence

    1) The writer has had an indepth academic/professional relationship with the applicant
    2) The writer has both the context and experience to evaluate the applicant
    3) The writer can express the evaluation noting characteristics via support from items #1 & #2

    In the order from least impactful to most impactful; letters need to be built in this manner
    1) Saying Good Things
    2) Saying Both Good and Bad Things
    3) Critically Evaluating the Applicant
    4) Critically Evaluating the Applicant from an academic/professional relationship
    5) Critically Evaluating the Applicant from academic/professional context and writer experience (ie professor)
    6) Having #5 with a strong position (ie Chair, Provost, etc)

    Note that having #6 is meaningless without all the rest built upon it. And if you look at from the opposite direction, getting to number 6 adds little to the evaluation

    Most importantly, note the opposite. What if you get the Nobel Prize winner on Campus to write you a letter without having done much with him or her? It can be seen not only as fluff by an adcom, but as name dropping or even perhaps trying to cover up another academic or personality weakness.
    I'm surprised you listed saying bad things. I've always thought this was counter-intuitive regarding a letter of recommendation? While the rest of this I stronly agree with and is how I viewed a Letter's importance.

    I guess the bad would show that the recommender has critically thought about the candidate?
     

    gyngyn

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    LizzyM

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    A letter from a high ranking individual at the university might help or hurt depending on how people feel about that person. Frankly, there are some faculty members who I consider to be jerks and I don't give much weight to LORs from them. I once held up an application that I planned to recommend for interview to see a promised letter from an athletic coach I admired. The letter was one of the best I've ever seen and I thought more highly of both the writer and the applicant after reading it. I've seen a LOR from our university president on behalf of a student who took a class when the president was a teacher at another school. I didn't think more of the applicant than I would if it were from a different teacher in that same department but it did make me think more highly of our president for taking the time and writing a very thoughtful letter.

    Ideally, they are letters of evaluation, not recommendation. https://www.aamc.org/download/351978/data/letters-printfriendly.pdf

    Alas, if they really are letters of evaluation, the fact that they contain negatives will be held against the applicant. The game has changed just as a GPA that is less than perfect is a negative.
     
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    gonnif

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    I'm surprised you listed saying bad things. I've always thought this was counter-intuitive regarding a letter of recommendation? While the rest of this I stronly agree with and is how I viewed a Letter's importance.

    I guess the bad would show that the recommender has critically thought about the candidate?

    Because a letter of just praise shows no critical evaluation of the candidate. Those letter have little value as an adcom as they cannot put a candidate into context. As was told to me many years ago when I first starting working as a clerk for an adcom, a letter that has nothing but praise is worth nothing . BTW, this is why letters from MDs that an applicant has shadowed for a short time just fluff. They show little evidence of any indepth knowledge but have glowing praise.
     
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    Kevin SM

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    A letter from a high ranking individual at the university might help or hurt depending on how people feel about that person. Frankly, there are some faculty members who I consider to be jerks and I don't give much weight to LORs from them. I once held up an application that I planned to recommend for interview to see a promised letter from an athletic coach I admired. The letter was one of the best I've ever seen and I thought more highly of both the writer and the applicant after reading it. I've seen a LOR from our university president on behalf of a student who took a class when the president was a teacher at another school. I didn't think more of the applicant than I would if it were from a different teacher in that same department but it did make me think more highly of our president for taking the time and writing a very thoughtful letter.



    Alas, if they really are letters of evaluation, the fact that they contain negatives will be held against the applicant. The game has changed just as a GPA that is less than perfect is a negative.
    Thank you, sums up my question very well.

    Ideally, they are letters of evaluation, not recommendation. https://www.aamc.org/download/351978/data/letters-printfriendly.pdf
    Wow, this just changed my idea of what a Letter of Recommendation should be. Thank you!

    Because a letter of just praise shows no critical evaluation of the candidate. Those letter have little value as an adcom as they cannot put a candidate into context. As was told to me many years ago when I first starting working as a clerk for an adcom, a letter that has nothing but praise is worth nothing . BTW, this is why letters from MDs that an applicant has shadowed for a short time just fluff. They show little evidence of any indepth knowledge but have glowing praise.
    Perhaps evaluation but nothing negative so to say? Omitting the negatives and listing the positives without saying anything praise-like.
     

    Chromium Surfer

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    Ideally, they are letters of evaluation, not recommendation. https://www.aamc.org/download/351978/data/letters-printfriendly.pdf

    A letter from a high ranking individual at the university might help or hurt depending on how people feel about that person. Frankly, there are some faculty members who I consider to be jerks and I don't give much weight to LORs from them. I once held up an application that I planned to recommend for interview to see a promised letter from an athletic coach I admired. The letter was one of the best I've ever seen and I thought more highly of both the writer and the applicant after reading it. I've seen a LOR from our university president on behalf of a student who took a class when the president was a teacher at another school. I didn't think more of the applicant than I would if it were from a different teacher in that same department but it did make me think more highly of our president for taking the time and writing a very thoughtful letter.



    Alas, if they really are letters of evaluation, the fact that they contain negatives will be held against the applicant. The game has changed just as a GPA that is less than perfect is a negative.

    Because a letter of just praise shows no critical evaluation of the candidate. Those letter have little value as an adcom as they cannot put a candidate into context. As was told to me many years ago when I first starting working as a clerk for an adcom, a letter that has nothing but praise is worth nothing . BTW, this is why letters from MDs that an applicant has shadowed for a short time just fluff. They show little evidence of any indepth knowledge but have glowing praise.

    So in regards to the critical "evaluation" of a candidate if negatives are held against an applicant how can they be critically evaluated? Say a student started out with a very poor grade on the first exam of a course and then bounced back over the course of the semester to receive an A by going to office hours, employing different learning strategies, and through resilience would this been seen as an appropriate critical evaluation, especially if the student developed close relationship with a professor in the process. Is it be beneficial for the professor to include how the student received a poor grade in the letter and expound on the process of "redemption if you will", would this be seen as a negative against the student or too trite?

    Also for students who developed a strong relationship with a professor, but never struggled in the class and instead performed well above the class median due to strong work ethic outside of class and other factors how would a professor critically evaluate them? For example my professor in one of my science classes told me that I performed exceptionally well in his classes due to me scoring an A before the curve when the medians were in the low to mid 60's. He reiterated how this was not common. If he talked about how my performance in his class compared to students he taught over the years and used this experience to highlight my demonstration of the "science competencies" i.e. the living systems and human behavior would that be appropriate?
     

    gyngyn

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    So in regards to the critical "evaluation" of a candidate if negatives are held against an applicant how can they be critically evaluated? Say a student started out with a very poor grade on the first exam of a course and then bounced back over the course of the semester to receive an A by going to office hours, employing different learning strategies, and through resilience would this been seen as an appropriate critical evaluation, especially if the student developed close relationship with a professor in the process. Is it be beneficial for the professor to include how the student received a poor grade in the letter and expound on the process of "redemption if you will", would this be seen as a negative against the student or too trite?

    Also for students who developed a strong relationship with a professor, but never struggled in the class and instead performed well above the class median due to strong work ethic outside of class and other factors how would a professor critically evaluate them? For example my professor in one of my science classes told me that I performed exceptionally well in his classes due to me scoring an A before the curve when the medians were in the low to mid 60's. He reiterated how this was not common. If he talked about how my performance in his class compared to students he taught over the years and used this experience to highlight my demonstration of the "science competencies" i.e. the living systems and human behavior would that be appropriate?
    Everyone has strengths and weaknesses.
    A good evaluator will be able to speak to both in a clear and insightful way. This type of letter is not harmful. It is also uncommon. The best committee letters do approach this standard, though.
    Fluff letters are neither harmful nor helpful, they are extremely common.
     
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    Chromium Surfer

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    Everyone has strengths and weaknesses.
    A good evaluator will be able to speak to both in a clear and insightful way. This type of letter is not harmful. It is also uncommon. The best committee letters do approach this standard, though.
    Fluff letters are neither harmful nor helpful, they are extremely common.

    Ah okay, so please correct if I am misrepresenting something. So as long as a LOE does not include weakness of a student that are indicative of a psychopath or strong personality flaws, addressing weakness in the letter are actually good and beneficial so long as the students strengths are also stated?

    Ideally if the strengths and weakness are connected in a cogent narrative that paints a clear and overall picture of the candidate that demonstrates they are ready to handle medical school in its entirety then the LOE has correctly served its purpose?

    Also if you don't mine me asking do you think most professors understand what medical school LOE are really asking for? Or would it be prudent for a student to discuss with the professor the nuances between a LOE and a LOR, respectfully of course!

    Thanks for your time, your opinion is always greatly appreciated!
     

    gonnif

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    Thank you, sums up my question very well.


    Wow, this just changed my idea of what a Letter of Recommendation should be. Thank you!


    Perhaps evaluation but nothing negative so to say? Omitting the negatives and listing the positives without saying anything praise-like.

    Any letter that only states praise and good things is suspect for bias content and therefore has less impact.
     
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    gyngyn

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    Ideally if the strengths and weakness are connected in a cogent narrative that paints a clear and overall picture of the candidate that demonstrates they are ready to handle medical school in its entirety then the LOE has correctly served its purpose?

    Also if you don't mine me asking do you think most professors understand what medical school LOE are really asking for? Or would it be prudent for a student to discuss with the professor the nuances between a LOE and a LOR, respectfully of course!

    Thanks for your time, your opinion is always greatly appreciated!
    Given what they usually write, they either don't know the applicant or don't know what we are looking for in an LOE.
    That's why you need to send them the AMCAS guidelines.
     
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    gonnif

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    Everyone has strengths and weaknesses.
    A good evaluator will be able to speak to both in a clear and insightful way. This type of letter is not harmful. It is also uncommon. The best committee letters do approach this standard, though.
    Fluff letters are neither harmful nor helpful, they are extremely common.

    Ah okay, so please correct if I am misrepresenting something. So as long as a LOE does not include weakness of a student that are indicative of a psychopath or strong personality flaws, addressing weakness in the letter are actually good and beneficial so long as the students strengths are also stated?

    Ideally if the strengths and weakness are connected in a cogent narrative that paints a clear and overall picture of the candidate that demonstrates they are ready to handle medical school in its entirety then the LOE has correctly served its purpose?

    Also if you don't mine me asking do you think most professors understand what medical school LOE are really asking for? Or would it be prudent for a student to discuss with the professor the nuances between a LOE and a LOR, respectfully of course!

    Thanks for your time, your opinion is always greatly appreciated!

    Hi gonnif, I would love to hear your thoughts on either of my posts if they differ or expound on any of gyngyn's insightful comments. Thanks for your time!

    I fully concur with @gyngyn on this, who expressed much better that I did. Your understanding is on the same page with it as well. Most professors do not understand what an LOE should be which is why I suggest every applicant always include the AAMC letter writers guidelines when requesting an LOE either by attachment or by link

    Guidelines link https://www.aamc.org/initiatives/admissionsinitiative/letters/
    Brochure Link https://www.aamc.org/download/351978/data/letters-printfriendly.pdf
    https://www.aamc.org/initiatives/admissionsinitiative/letters/
     

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    Chromium Surfer

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    I fully concur with @gyngyn on this, who expressed much better that I did. Your understanding is on the same page with it as well. Most professors do not understand what an LOE should be which is why I suggest every applicant always include the AAMC letter writers guidelines when requesting an LOE either by attachment or by link

    Guidelines link https://www.aamc.org/initiatives/admissionsinitiative/letters/
    Brochure Link https://www.aamc.org/download/351978/data/letters-printfriendly.pdf
    Thank you for the feedback!
     

    Lawpy

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    Which conflicts with what the wise @gyngyn has written!
    The writer's stature in the community means a lot more at the residency application level than it does at the medical school level.

    Does the simplest case hold true at the medical school level: that a professor's letter holds more weight than a post-doc's, which holds more weight than a grad student's?
     

    gyngyn

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    Does the simplest case hold true at the medical school level: that a professor's letter holds more weight than a post-doc's, which holds more weight than a grad student's?
    Any letter from a person without a doctorate should be co-signed by the professor.
    A well-written letter from someone who knows you well trumps everything until the writer has no post-graduate degree.
     

    Lawpy

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    Any letter from a person without a doctorate should be co-signed by the professor.
    A well-written letter from someone who knows you well trumps everything until the writer has no post-graduate degree.

    So a well-written letter from a grad student + a cosign by a supervising professor has the same weight as a well-written letter from a tenured professor?
     
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    How about letters from volunteer coordinators? Mine is currently working on her masters, would her letter hold less weight because she has no graduate degree?
     

    LizzyM

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    How about letters from volunteer coordinators? Mine is currently working on her masters, would her letter hold less weight because she has no graduate degree?

    Volunteer coordinators usually write unhelpful letters. It will typically go something like "Danman has been a volunteer with our organization for 17 months and has served 197 hours in the maternity unit and emergency department." Then there might be a paragraph talking about the organization's mission and catchment area or some metrics taken right out of some grant proposal or PR puff piece.

    Don't waste your time asking for one.
     
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    Chromium Surfer

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    Volunteer coordinators usually write unhelpful letters. It will typically go something like "Danman has been a volunteer with our organization for 17 months and has served 197 hours in the maternity unit and emergency department." Then there might be a paragraph talking about the organization's mission and catchment area or some metrics taken right out of some grant proposal or PR puff piece.

    Don't waste your time asking for one.

    What if you give them them the AAMC document on how to write a LOE and they can speak to your impersonal competencies? Would it still not be worth getting one from them?
     
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    777137

    Volunteer coordinators usually write unhelpful letters. It will typically go something like "Danman has been a volunteer with our organization for 17 months and has served 197 hours in the maternity unit and emergency department." Then there might be a paragraph talking about the organization's mission and catchment area or some metrics taken right out of some grant proposal or PR puff piece.

    Don't waste your time asking for one.
    Really? I know most people don't get a lot of 1 on 1 interaction with their coordinators, but in my program we meet with them before and after each shift. What I do is help orient elderly patients and I talk to my coordinators to improve our charts and discuss what we should be doing when we see the patients. I have actually gotten to know my coordinators and I have only been doing it a month or so. I also might have an opportunity to help set up a new branch of the program in another hospital.
     

    TaupePremed

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    I am highly dubious that a letter of recommendation for med school SHOULD say at least one bad thing. Highly dubious.

    Many, many letter writers think it is bad to say bad things. If they want to provide the best letter, they will say nothing negative. It doesn't matter if you give them the AAMC Letter Guide.

    At least some people reading the letter will see the bad thing and say, "that is a bad thing, the writer thought it was important enough to mention, this is a weakness". The letter writer is not allowed to say, "I am expected to say at least one bad thing, so here is literally the worst true statement I can think of, and look, it is not that bad."

    Don't try to force letter writers to think of something bad to say. Encourage letter writers to provide objective and concrete statistics and examples, not just generic praise.
     

    LizzyM

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    If you have actual face time on a regular basis with your volunteer coordinator and they have more to go on than the number of hours you've clocked for the organization, then maybe it is the exception to the usual.
     
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