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Mr.Smile12

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Hi everyone, thanks for taking the time to read this post!

I am planning to apply this upcoming cycle and am in the process of getting my letters of rec together. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 and also the fact that I am a non-trad career-changer who has to work full-time, I haven't really been able to build great relationships with my hard science professors. During my post-bacc career thus far, I really only had one full semester (Fall 2019) where I attended classes completely in the classroom setting. During that semester, I was able to take two pre-req's (Gen Chem I lecture + lab) and went to office hours a handful of times with my lecture instructor and was able to build somewhat of a relationship with him. I ended up taking his class in Spring, but we ended up going online and his virtual office hours coincided with my work hours and I eventually lost contact with him. I did well in his classes and was going to ask him for a LOR, though I'm not sure how strong it would be. Would it look bad to use a LOR from him?

For my second Science LOR, I was planning on asking my instructor that I had for a Neuroscience Internship class last semester. The course was designed to be Credit/No Credit (no letter grade given - would that be a red flag?) and I only earned one credit from it. The class was under the NSC designation/department, though we didn't learn much about any neuroscience topics. However, because of the online format and having to work with my work schedule, I met with him over videochat once a week for usually over an hour each session. We built a really great relationship, and he knows me very well. Also, we were given assignments that were "graded" and had to work with him 1-on-1 to design our different projects. He's a great instructor and I feel that he would write me a strong LOR. My worry is that perhaps his LOR would either not count as a science LOR or because of the structure of the class that LOR would look weak to adcom's?

I don't have many options for any science LOR's that would be strong or compelling, besides the fact that they could attest to the grade that I earned in their courses. My work schedule and the fact that we had all of our classes online really made it difficult for me to build a rapport with my instructors outside of our class time.

I was also planning to get LOR's from an MD and a DO, both of which work as attendings at the teaching hospital I work at. I have great working relationships with them and have met with each of them outside of the hospital. They have been mentoring me and I think they would also write me strong LOR's. I was also going to ask my PI for a LOR, who is an instructor at the medical school I do research at, though she is not a medical doctor. She would write me a great LOR as well.

I'm not sure if it seems like the bulk of my LOR's are coming from outside the academic setting, and if that might be a red flag to adcom's? I was hoping that quality holds more weight than quantity when it comes to LOR's.

My previous bachelor's was in a humanities major, but I graduated about 5 years ago. If I attempted to get a non-science LOR from one of my instructors at my alma mater, would that be considered coursework that is too old to hold any weight as a solid LOR?

Thanks!
It's tough to say, but if you asked them to write you a strong letter, how confident was their answer in saying they feel that they could? Important letters that I tend to pay more attention to reveal some element of mentorship, and not just a "writing a letter because I am a science professor" feel.
 

TheBoneDoctah

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When you asked these people to write letters, did you ask if they would write you a strong letter of recommendation? How did they respond? The best letters are with people who know you well and can write a personal letter. The neuro professor seems like that kinda person.
 

TheBoneDoctah

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My MD and DO LOR writers both offered to write me LOR's and both explicitly said they'd write me strong letters. When I asked my Neuroscience Internship instructor if he'd be open to writing me a LOR, he said he'd gladly do it and he mentioned that it'd be strong, but his main concern was whether or not his letter would hold a lot of weight since his class technically wasn't considered within the realm of a traditional neuroscience course. It was a class that focused more on prepping neuroscience majors for their careers once they graduated. It really was more of a mentorship in that regard than a class where we learned specific topics on neuroscience. He did say that he would write me a very strong letter as well though. I'm just worried that his LOR wouldn't count as a science LOR?

I haven't asked my chem professor to write me a LOR yet but personally I don't feel he knows me as well as my other LOR writers whom I've worked with 1-on-1 extensively. The 2 or 3 times I met him in office hours we only went over any questions I had about the material we covered because I was always pressed on time since I had work after his class, which was when he had office hours.

When I asked my neuro internship professor if he'd write me a LOR, I did ask him if he'd write me a strong recommendation, and he very much said he would. And he seemed really eager to do so. His concern though was that his letter might not be as strong as another science professor's since his course wasn't considered a "hard" science, but rather it was more along the lines of a professional mentorship that prepped neuroscience students for their careers paths once they were out of college. We did mock job or graduate school admissions interviews and had projects where we would interview professionals in the respective fields that we were pursuing. It was an awesome class honestly and I learned a lot from him. And I was able to build a really great relationship with him.
You may be right as it may not count as the “hard science” requirement. Maybe another ADCOM can advise.

However, if they are telling you they are gonna write you a great letter that may be worth having in addition to a real science letter.
 
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