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Who to write LOR?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by mrmandrake, Apr 15, 2007.

  1. mrmandrake

    mrmandrake 7+ Year Member

    Sep 13, 2006
    Hey guys,

    I need some advice. I already have one professor who knows me pretty well to write a LOR for me. I need to figure out who will write the other two. I have three questions:

    1) Can you please list who your three LOR's were from here so I can get a general idea of who to ask for them?

    2) I volunteer at a hospital and after a year of volunteering 5 hours/week, they write you a LOR, but I heard it is very generic. Should I quit volunteering and spend my 5 hours/week doing something more productive (study, mcats , getting to know other profs ... )?

    3) I have already been volunteering for 3 months and I think that is a decent amount to put on my app. Is this a good amount?

    Thanks for the help guys.
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  3. Non-TradTulsa

    Non-TradTulsa Senior Member - Resident 7+ Year Member

    Apr 17, 2005
    I'll give you some advice from somebody who applied to medical school at age 43 who had been out in the "real world" for many years. Plus some things I learned along the way.

    First, who said "three" letters? Three is the minimum. If you ask, you'll find that every school (even Harvard) is happy to accept more than three. However, never go more than 6 - that's the absolute max. More than that is pretentious and boring.

    I had six letters. Three were the required letters from professors, two were from physicians that I worked with for several years, and one was from the Chief Nursing Officer of the health system where I worked.

    Number 1 rule over all: letters should be personal. If your letter-writer doesn't know you well, it's a waste of time. You've already figured that out... a generic letter from a Director of Volunteers where you worked is almost useless. Did you get to know any physicians while you were volunteering? Don't be afraid to ask - many docs will be quite flattered to write (always, however, ask "would you be comfortable writing a positive letter of recommendation for me" - you need to give them an "out" if they don't feel that they can write you a good letter). Hopefully you got to know three professors fairly well - you need to go visit them during office hours, things like that - if they have experience with pre-meds, they will know full-well why you're there sucking-up, but they can still write a better letter if they know you. Employer letters like mine are great and very welcome.

    Also, here's a little trick that I came up with that worked great for me: anybody I asked to write for me, I gave them a copy of my AMCAS along with pre-addressed envelopes and all that stuff. That allowed my letter-writer to look over my grades, my previous jobs, and my personal statement. It gave them an opportunity to fill in the "gaps" in their knowledge of me and resulted in far better letters.

    Also, on a different subject - I recommend that you use a letter-forwarding service. Not so much that it's convenient for you, but it's a heck of a lot easier for your writers to send one copy to one place rather than signing a stack of originals. Some of my writers were very happy with me and quite PO'd with friends of mine who kept coming back to have more copies sent. I really liked Interfolio and the money was well worth it - and nobody turned down Interfolio submissions.

    Good luck to you!
  4. OncDoc19

    OncDoc19 MS4 7+ Year Member

    Feb 6, 2007
    I'm applying this year but here are the letters I will be using:
    1. Biochemistry professor - I've taken one class with him, he is my advisor for my major and the PI of the lab where I have done my honors thesis research for the last year and a half. I have known him for over 3 years.

    2. Cancer Cell Biology Professor - I've taken three graduate-level classes with him (all classes had less than 20 people in them), he is my advisor for my second major and the PI of the lab where I will be doing research this summer. I have known him for almost 2 years.

    3. History of Medicine Professor - I have taken one course and done one independent study with her. Both times I did intensive research projects where we spent significant one-on-one time together. We have also maintained a relationship between classes by meeting for lunch or visiting during History of Medicine society meetings. We are working on another independent study project at the moment. I have known her for over 2 years.

    4. Neonatologist - I have worked for this physician for almost a year now. We have worked together closely on two different clinical research projects from writing the protocol to IRB submission to doing the actual sample collection.

    5. Free Radical Biologist - I have taken three graduate-level courses with this professor (all classes had less than 20 people in them). This professor will be speaking specifically to my ability to research the exsisting body of literature and compile a coherent paper with original ideas (I'm applying for MD/PhD in the history of medicine and this is an important quality in a historian)

    If you are pressed for time yes, otherwise not necessarily. I don't think its terrible not to have a volunteering letter. To me a generic letter is not good though.

    If this is the only volunteer activity you have, then no its not enough. can't really say if you should stay or not based on this information though. Sounds like you don't like volunteering there.
  5. scholj

    scholj Member 2+ Year Member

    Apr 24, 2006
    Worcester, MA
    1) Can you please list who your three LOR's were from here so I can get a general idea of who to ask for them?
    I had a LOR from my two advisors (my applied physics advisor and my biology advisor, both knew me fairly well), one from my assistant director who I've been working with since I was a sophomore on the residence life staff (he could speak to my personal skills and such), and one from the director of my school's student union. I tried to pick people who could each touch on different aspects, and didn't even bother going to anyone who couldn't tell me my middle name at the drop of a hat. Definately only get recommendations from people who know you,

    2) I volunteer at a hospital and after a year of volunteering 5 hours/week, they write you a LOR, but I heard it is very generic. Should I quit volunteering and spend my 5 hours/week doing something more productive (study, mcats , getting to know other profs ... )?
    Why not just cut back if you feel you can get some other things done, like studying and such. To be honest, I only volunteered at an ER for about a year at ~2 hours a week, and I still got into two schools. Depending on what your asiprations are, I'd say go from there. My lack of clinical experience (and my GPA) were the two largest factors that kept me out of a lot of schools.

    3) I have already been volunteering for 3 months and I think that is a decent amount to put on my app. Is this a good amount?
    I'd say go for at least a year. I think it's more important to show schools that you can commit to something long-term rather than going at it for X number of days to get Y number of hours of experience. Like I said before, try cutting back to 2 or 3 hours a week volunteering, but definately try to volunteer for a longer duration.
  6. mrmandrake

    mrmandrake 7+ Year Member

    Sep 13, 2006
    Thanks for the feedback guys. I know 5 hours/week isn't much but I didn't mention that I work full time and go to school full time so I am a little more pressed for time. Can people who work full time get a little more of a break when their EC's are lacking a bit? About 50hours/week of my time is eaten up :( I have to pay for school myself.

    Non-TradTulsa: I'll try to get more than three but right now I have to worry about the minimum :) I'll look into Interfolio. We don't get any interaction with physicians but work mostly around nurses. I'll probably try to get to know some professors a little better.

    OncDoc19: I do like volunteering there but with full time work and school I find 5 hours/week a little too much and they are strict about putting in your hours at this program. I'll try to stick it out a little longer but would rather not let my grades slip if I can help it.

    scholj: I would like to cut back on hours but the program is structured that way and they enforce it or kick you out. I'll see how long I can last :)
  7. bacalaca

    bacalaca 5+ Year Member

    Apr 15, 2007
    I have a PI that i have done research with for a very long time. I have never taken a class with him, except for a graded independent research class. I was wondering if a letter from him would qualify as a science faculty letter of rec, or as just one of the extra letters of rec.
    Thanks for your help!
  8. SupergreenMnM

    SupergreenMnM Peanut, not chocolate 2+ Year Member

    Mar 27, 2007
    It should count, as long as he knows you well enough to write a good one go ahead.

    To OP:

    1) My PI, an associate prof in neurobio who I also knew from during my masters.

    2) Professor of Ethics/University Ethicist/Professor of Animal Sciences from my undergrad. I did a lot of grad ethics courses with him and he used to be on faculty/adcom at Harvard and has written a few books that have made him $$$ and fame. He basically said I was the best applicant he's seen in his 40 years of teaching; great letter!

    3) Professor of Physiology/Faculty Chair, he was on first name basis with just about every major medical school dean in the country, and a nice guy to boot. Knew him for 4 years, taught a course for 2 years that he was my 'faculty advisor' for (meaning if I screwed up he'd save my butt) and frequently went to sporting events with him and other faculty. I knew him very well personally so it made for a very good letter.

    4) The not required letter: Dean of the University of Sindh/Prof of Rural Economics. She was the Dean and also the person who helped organize my volunteer trip to Kashmir after the 2005 earthquake. A lot of people seemed to like the nontraditional reference as it was brought up on many occasions.

    5) My one MD reference: an infectious disease doc who is on the adcom at my university. I knew her and her husband (an inv. cardiologist) for last 8 years so she could write a fairly personal letter.
  9. Crazy4F1

    Crazy4F1 10+ Year Member

    Oct 4, 2006
    My school has a composite letter writing service, so i submitted 6 or 7 letters to the committee for one big letter. the people were

    1) my lieutenant from the first aid squad,
    2) summer research PI,
    3)history prof who mentored me submitting a paper for publication
    4) my genetics prof/academic advisor
    5) organic prof who i loved
    6) bio prof who i loved
    7) physics prof [could have left this one out, not sure it contributed much...and he couldnt speak much english]. but i'm sure the committee probably caught that.
  10. jochi1543

    jochi1543 President, Gunner Central 2+ Year Member

    Apr 4, 2007
    Alberta, Canada
    1) 1 former professor (non-science) who I'm still friends with (he's no longer in academia). He also happens to have an Ivy League background, so I'm hoping this will help me with the "big" schools.

    2) a former work supervisor who I've been friends with for 4 years now.

    3) a professor who worked in the same academic department where I did my work-study for 3 years. She is of the same ethnic background as me, and so initially she reached out to me based on that, but afterwards, we became fairly good friends, and I've helped her out a lot with life in general (she is on the older side).

    Bottom line, none of these people carries any sort of dramatic drool-inducing title to their name, but they all know me very well and I'm confident that they can write me a positive and detailed letter. I'm really counting on them noticing things I don't know about myself and making my entire application look more complete.

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