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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?

Thank you comment icon Hey Michelle, great question. As someone who experienced frequent anxiety and even impostor syndrome as a student, looking back now I would tell myself to forge a path despite my doubts. Making introductions is an important skill you'll need to eventually master as a professional. That being said, try to reach out! My first step would be to email my professor to see if I can get a 15 min one v one to make a quick impression. They would be able to pull your academic history, so by showing a bit of your personality they can draft a great letter. If you're still unsure, I recommend connecting with other school professionals you're comfortable with (counselors, former professors etc). Internships and other school initiatives are also a great place to go for recs. Good luck! Becka Pinkhasov

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Kayli’s Answer

Hi Michelle, this is a great question, I also was a similar situation and felt afraid to ask for letters of recommendation. However, there is no need to be fearful, although you have been in quite large classes, usually professors are very accommodating and want to help students progress with their careers, which often involves letters of recommendation (LOR). Maybe try to reach out to them and explain your situation, it will show your determination and commitment. In addition, if any are hesitant on giving LOR, in terms of them not knowing you very well, you could suggest a zoom call or meeting to express your interest and dedication to the field. Make sure to emphasize your results and any volunteering or extra curricular work if you have done any. Wishing you all the best and success in your further career.
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Kim’s Answer

Michelle,

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!!!!!
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Ryan’s Answer

Hey Michelle,

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.
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Howard’s Answer

Your supervisor is a great choice for a letter of recommendation. I also would suggest that you try hard to find at least one professor who can attest to your academic strength. You could also possibly attain a letter of recommendation from the school counselor or career services department of your current college. I hope this helps and have a good day Michelle.
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Sikawayi’s Answer

Hello Michelle, thank you for your question. I would suggest that you ask your Pastor, you can also reach out to former teachers. If you don't know how to reach them, I would suggest you do and internet search, include your form professors in your search as well. Best of luck
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Elisa’s Answer

Hi Michelle! Your supervisor at work is a great start. I would also reach out to your advisor at school to see if they would be able to write you a recommendation letter as well as a colleague or another contact at your current internship. You also reaching out to your prof. from last Spring is a great idea - you are on the right track and it sounds like everything will fall into place.
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Gabriel’s Answer

Hello, Michelle. Please take this with a grain of salt as I work in financial aid. However, I have worked very closely with admissions departments for over twenty years. My interpretation from what you wrote was that you were holding off from applying until you had the letters.

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!
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Kate’s Answer

Hi Michelle, practicing genetic counselor here! I have supervised many prospective students applying to graduate school for genetic counseling, and your letters of recommendation do not all need to be from professors. In fact, I would encourage you to diversify who writes your letters of recommendation so that you have someone(s) who can speak to your academic ability AND your skills that would make you an effective healthcare practitioner. Genetic counseling training programs are competitive because the field is small (but growing) and programs can only accept a percentage of people who apply. Programs want candidates who can demonstrate the qualities that make for a good genetic counselor, beyond just academic ability and a sharp scientific mind: compassion and empathy, critical thinking skills, service-oriented, love of learning, and ability to distill complex ideas into easy to understand language. Do you have volunteer or work experience where you've demonstrated these skills? Those supervisors would be ideal. Some examples I have seen in the past are students' supervisors at their paid job, hospital volunteering, crisis hotline, hospice, summer camp, teaching/tutoring, or other activities.

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.
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Chanda’s Answer

Hi Michelle

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!
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