What constitutes a good letter of rec?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by Scooby Doo, Aug 18, 2001.

  1. Scooby Doo

    Scooby Doo IEatShavedPussyCats

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    So let's see...I guess it's two major factors:

    1) If the person has an MD, PHD, or is just a TA or lecturer...how much more are those letters weighed if they are of a higher "status"

    2) Insight into the character, emotions, etc of the applicant versus a regurgitation of awards and grades

    Any other factors that go into it?

    What happens if someone has like 3 good letters and then one is BAD (such that the prof says one thing bad about the person) but all the others are good?

    Can you tell I am paranoid?
    :confused: :confused: :confused: :confused: :confused: :confused: :confused:
     
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  3. ScoobyDoo - Did you know beforehand that something bad was said? If so, why didn't you just use your other letters?
     
  4. Scooby Doo

    Scooby Doo IEatShavedPussyCats

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    No...actually, I don't know about two of my letters.
    Here's my situation:
    Letter #1: Cosigned and very good..though I got a lower grade in the course

    Letter #2 and #3: From Professors with a high reputation but I do not know how strong they are...never know...they could turn behind you and say something bad. One was my faculty advisor, my genetics prof (got an A), and my research sponsor. The other was my cell bio of cancer prof (got an A) in a very small class where I talked with him many times...I fell asleep a couple times in class...and so I hope that doesn't hurt me :( :( . He is well known in the cancer research field. So I don't know if these letters are strong.

    Letter #4: From my boss...super smart guy from Harvard, HOWEVER, lacks common sense when writing my rec...He told me after he wrote it that he only referred to things about our research! I was very annoyed. I figured he knew that he was suppposed to talk about the person and not the research...so basically I have stopped sending that letter because it is like a research paper.

    Letter#5: Humanities Rec from Dean of Social Sciences and Prof Emeritus in Geography. Great Class and a short but very heartwarming rec :)

    Letter #6: An "associate prof" from outside my major but still science. I was a student in her class and then was her "employee" as I wrote professional notes for her class. A good letter of rec.

    Letter #7: A Teaching Assistant who has worked with med school admissions. I know for a fact his letter is the most solid and most personable letter I have. HOWEVER, he is ONLY a TA :( ....So I guess it comes down to how much I want to risk it.

    Does anyone have any suggestions??
    Should I totally avoid sending my boss' letter since he only talked about research?
    The two letters of rec I am paranoid about I probably shouldn't be. I do not think they would write anything negative about me...in fact, the one who was my faculty advisor ...i asked her jokingly "you aren't going to say anything bad right..." and she said "no"...so that's good I guess...
    Argh...it's just like one more added stress factor to this whole thing.

    You guys with the premed committee's are luckier I think. They get to filter out the letters that you might not want to use...
     
  5. SMW

    SMW Grand Member

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    OK, Scooby, I can see you're really torn about this. Part of your problem is you have too many letters to choose from. (I only have 4 total, and I don't know what any of them say!) Here's what I would do. Don't use the boss letter for any of the "required" letters. If they say they want letters from 2 science and 1 non-science prof, use letters 2, 3, and 5. If they say they only want 1 science letter, use your advisor's. Use the TA letter (and maybe the boss letter and/or another of your plethora of good letters) for the schools that allow "extra" letters. I would tailor which extra letters to use for each school, depending on what program you're applying to (aren't you applying to some MD/PhD programs?), the focus of the school, etc. All this decision making re letters does sound stressful. But it's an opportunity to really tailor your application in a way that those of us with fewer letters, or those stuck with a committee letter, don't have. So appreciate your silver lining! And I have a feeling that your paranoia is totally uncalled for!! You wouldn't have asked anyone for a letter unless you thought it would be good, right? Just hold that thought!
     
  6. Hi Scooby,

    I can help you out... ;)

    kind of in the same situation....I have a total of 9 letters...applying to 25 schools....

    u know what I do? random shake of letters...some schools get 3, some 5, some 6, 1 got 8 by accident (I know I know, they will curse me).....

    but I always mixed the variations....schools that I really cared about. I sent letters that I know where STRONG...schools that I didnt give **** about, I mixed the letters up....a bit of this and a bit of that looooll...

    have to see what turns out...
     
  7. Milhouse Van Houten

    Milhouse Van Houten Senior Member

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    never ever hesitate to send a letter from a T.A. if it is excellent!--as long as it is NOT in lieu of a faculty letter. you go to berkeley, and i to another UC, so i know how hard it is to get to know your profs. send the required faculty, and always send your t.a. letter. think about it, the t.a.'s gonna get a ph.d.; his opinion, although not as important as that of a prof, are still important.
     
  8. Scooby Doo

    Scooby Doo IEatShavedPussyCats

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    Quick Question,

    Wouldn't a TA letter be considered "science faculty"???

    If not, then I need to call a couple schools on Monday and tell them I F'ed up when I sent them my letters :( argh....

    Thanks for all the advice. So far I have sent letters out to about 14 schools (which is only a dent in my total amount I am applying to) and I have mixed them up pretty well..

    Also,
    Is there a difference between "associate professor" and "professor"??? B/c maybe I should just be sending off the letter of the associate professor in nutritional science that I have??
     
  9. yes there is a difference between an associate and a professor

    I think the steps work like this

    assistant professor, associate professor, and the tenured professor, then emeritus ;)

    I dont think it is that big of a deal between the two, especially when u have other strong letters :D

    dont worry too much....letters of rec are not the deciding factor....you are the DECIDING FACTOR :D
     
  10. Jamier2

    Jamier2 SDN Hillbilly Moderator
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    I doubt it, as I was a TA this last spring, and I'm sure not a member of the faculty. But, as an aside, I am not 100% sure, as I did get paid, albeit very little. :)
     
  11. SMW

    SMW Grand Member

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    I am quite sure a TA would not be considered "science faculty."
     

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