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How important are recommendation letters for applying to college/med school?

#college-admissions #medicine #student #premed #medschool

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Yasemin’s Answer

Hi Henry, great question! Recommendation letters are very important to medical school because they speak on your behalf of who you are as a person and a student. This is something that medical schools themselves are also curious about and having these types of letters can give them a perspective of who you are and if they want you at their school. That being said it's important to secure strong letters from letter writers who you've gotten to know through time and who have also gotten to know you as well; medical schools require a set of letters, either from the premed advisor committee at your school or from a set of professors. The professors are two science and one non-science, then you can add letters from different areas you partook in such as volunteering, shadowing, research or work; medicals schools sometimes have a maximum of how many letters you can submit. Sometimes you can have a professor who taught you a science course and who you also did research with, so that is also fine. Get to know your professors and others in your extracurriculars, and get them to know you; speak about your passion, interests and show your commitment to your grades by doing well and attending office hours. Sometimes you will have a professor who is hard on their students but is actually really helpful and can write an amazing letter for you. As a last note, medical schools will ask you why you chose your professors and not the premed committee to write your letters, if you had one at your school; I think it's completely fine to get recommendation letters from different individuals because they may have gotten to know you better than your premed adviser.

Best of luck!
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Cara’s Answer

Hi Henry!
Great question, this is a daunting process and it is difficult to know up from down at times when you are applying for medical school!
Letters of recommendation are of great importance. Admission committees put a lot of weight on these letters and who they are from. Try to work with or get to know professors that are involved in the school of medicine in your undergraduate program Hopefully you can work with him/her and also get a letter of recommendation. Not all letters need to be from those involved in medicine or science but it is helpful if the person writing the letter knows you well and is able to write a strong letter not only about your scholastic success but can also highlight you as a person and traits that make you stand out and memorable to the admissions committee.

Thinking about the importance of the letters and who is going to write them may help to be a well rounded candidate and most importantly a thoughtful, caring person in all areas that are considered by the admission committee.

While it is important to consider the importance of what is important on your application, it is the most important to consider what helps you become a thoughtful, caring doctor and person who also is very smart.

With Gratitude,
Cara Oliver, MD
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Daniel’s Answer

Recommendations are just as important as any of your extra-curricular activities. In these modern times the competition for most schools is neck and neck, there are countless applicants who will have similar GPA's and SAT scores as you. The best way to differentiate yourself is to look good in countless other areas. Join as many clubs as you can, play sports, volunteer, expand your hobbies far and wide and yes, develop good relationships with your teachers. A great recommendation, especially from a respected teacher who may even have connections at some of these schools, is a way to push you over the top in the admissions process.
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Estelle’s Answer

I agree with Richard. Very important. This is why it is important to pick a major that you really enjoy so that you can do well and make a good impression on professors that will write strong letters of recommendation. Don't be afraid to approach professors and let them know your plans and what you need.
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Richard’s Answer

Very important! First priority is good grades and high MCAT score.

But close behind is recommendation letters. Attend your professor's office hours and any TA review sessions. Try to get to know your professors. You could even try research and get a letter from your primary investigator if things go well.
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Darrius’s Answer

I applied to a school with an average SAT score of 2200 (back when the max was 2400) and I had only about an 1800.

With this said I did JROTC in high school and reached the highest position possible. I worked very closely with the Sergeant instructor during this time and he wrote me an absolutely killer recommendation. I was accepted and during my visit to the college they directly told me that between my JROTC leadership experience, JROTC community service, and most of all the recommendation (which included them having a phone call with the instructor) I was a must have.

I would say depending on who it is from and how passionate they are about you it can make all the difference.

I cannot comment on medical school though.
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Cheryl’s Answer

Rec letters are essential for getting into medical school. But med school doesn't take place until after you pass the MCAT exam. You typically take the MCAT once you have completed your 4-year bachelor's degree. Are you still in high school? If so, when you apply to college, many highly selective colleges will require a rec letter or maybe 2 or 3. This helps the college admissions office differentiate you from other candidates. You want to select teachers who know you best, so that they can really personalize your letter. They can also tweak their same letter for your scholarship applications too. I let me kids use my letter for part-time jobs too. Even if a college does not require a letter of rec, it can still improve your chances of acceptance. Just don't send more letters than they need because that can be annoying to them.
Have you heard of "networking"? That's basically what you are doing. You want to create references, a group of people who have faith in you, who can advocate for things like how hard of a worker you are, how well you problem solve, your communication skills how well you get along with your peers, if you are reliable, honest, funny, etc. I hope this helps.
Note that rec letters are basically written references. Some teachers do not share their letter with you. Most will send the letter directly to your college application or the Common App.
Last, community colleges do not require a rec letter, but instructors there will be able to write great rec letters for advanced studies. Some of our kids in this area start at Washtenaw Community College and then go on to University of Michigan. Anything is possible. You have to pick the path that is best for you. Med school is a long path...so really look at the variety of medical careers that are also along that path. Ex: Physician Assistant, Nurse Practitioner, Lab Tech.... there are MANY options. Check out https://www.bls.gov/ooh/ for all the possibilities.
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Blake’s Answer

Hey Henry!

This is very important. It will always help to have references.

Thanks,
Blake
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