Letters of Recommendation
I have just started my grad school application for Genetic Counseling but am not very confident regarding the 3 letters of recommendation I need to gather. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and my own social anxiety, I have had a hard time making any connections with professors. Classes have around 300 students so they have little to no memory of me. I've e-mailed the grad program about if letters of recommendations from my supervisor at work could be considered (currently an HR intern). I have also reached out to a professor I recently had last Spring.
Is there anything else you would recommend for me to do?
I'm a little out of my league in attempting to answer this, but, here's my take on it.
Everyone else is in the same dilemma. Professors get these requests all the time. So, they probably have a template saved that they like to use.
When you contact a professor, in writing, to request said letter, you need to "refresh their memory" of you. That is to say, you sort of tell them what classes you had with them, what topics really resonated with you, and a little about your academic and career goals. A little! Don't make them have to read too much. But, you want to make it easy for them to write a good letter about you! You also want to read the grad school requirements for the letter, to make sure you are covering everything they require to be in a letter.
Does it all somehow seem sort of "wrong" or "phony?" Maybe. But, if you went all the way through undergrad and can't find three professors to speak highly of you, that isn't likely to work out too well. Put forth the effort, get out of your comfort zone, and do what needs to be done to get where you want to go! You've got this!!!!!
This isn't an answer to the letter of recommendation portion of your question, but I wanted to give some advice on the social anxiety component. The most significant help for me in college and my career has been working towards treatment for my social anxiety. I've learned that the world is far more social than I had ever anticipated. When I was younger, I had previously believed that if I worked hard that I would be recognized and find success easily. But I quickly learned that regardless of the quality of my work, people interpreted my social anxiety negatively. It's not fair or equitable...but it seems to be the harsh truth about the workplace and the greater world. So my advice would be to take some steps to actively treat your social anxiety: talk to your doctor, look into medications, and consider talking to a therapist regularly.
Just apply. Give them as much as you have and get your foot in the door. Any reputable school/program will write and tell you, "hey...you're missing this one thing"...if it is important to them. Once you apply you can contact the admissions counselor. It is in the school's interest, from a financial standpoint, to have you enrolled. We have rules we must follow...and any reputable school will follow them as well. Sadly, school websites often make things look end-of-the-world/black-and-white. Just start the process...I can't offer you any guarantees...but I do know you will at least be on their radar. Hope this helps!
You got this!
Although it can feel a little scary to approach professors about a letter of recommendation, I promise you that this is something they are used to and expect around this time of year. When I get asked to provide letters of recommendation for students I don't know as well, I sometimes ask them to provide me with 2-3 experiences or traits they would like me to highlight, and I ask for a list of the schools they are applying to and deadlines so that I can plan out the time it will take to complete. I would encourage you to provide this to them upfront, as it helps the recommender a lot if you are organized and make it easy for them. Also, if a professor declines to provide a letter, please don't take it personally - it may be that they have a lot on their plate. Just approach the next person!
Additionally, I would advise that while your letters of recommendation are important and something you do have to check off the list (or your application will not even be considered by many programs as "incomplete"), your personal statement is even more important because that's in YOUR voice. Make sure you can speak to why you want to be a genetic counselor, what you love about genetics, and just be your genuine self.
I would start by reaching out to your professors. You may feel that your professors don't have a personal relationship with you due to high volume of students or not being in person, however, they could still speak to your academic standards, your attendance and possible other qualities based on small things your might not have taken into consideration. Replying to an email, handing in assignments on time are some characters traits that a professor could speak to that has not had a personal relationship with you. If a professor is unable to write a recommendation they would be able to share that information with you. So I do believe you should start with your professors.
I wish you all the best!