Ok. So as a non-traditional student, I decided to go talk to the University Pre-med Advisor where I work at, and boy, it was an eye opening experience. Talk about starting your Monday off on the wrong foot. He said that I needed to have 2 science letters of recommendation. It’s been 8 years since I took my sciences – all my letters of rec come from the MD faculty I work with some of my nursing instructors for my masters degree(i’m a nurse if you have’t figured it out by now So he said I HAVE to go back and take my classes all OVER again. I got A’s in most of them, so retake them? That doesn’t make sense if you have a good MCAT score, since that is a reflection of you knowing the basic science, isnt it??? Days like this I want to give up…I would love to know if eveyrone went back and got a post-bac degree? Did anyone retake classes that were more than 5 years old? Help help please…
He may be a little confused, some of the classes required for nursing do not meet the requirement for the pre-med track. For example, the nursing majors at my school took a lower level gen chem and they only took brief organic. So maybe that is what your pre-med advisor is hinting at. I would not worry too much, if you took the pre-professional gen chem, organic, yada yada, you should be fine. Obviously if you already took the mcat and did well then you should be fine.
Thanks for the info Efex…that is what I was thinking. I took all the normal classes, since I started out as a biochem major…but the other problem is the science letters of recommendation, what do i do about that…it seems like I have no choice but to cram a couple of summer classes in so that I can get an LOR from a science faculty…i am wondering it just varies from school to school…
What is the purpose of these LORs? Are they for your med school applications, or are they for your university’s pre-med committee? it makes a difference…
Med schools require LORs, everyone knows that. Some med schools specify who they’d like those LORs from. Usually if they specify, it is to say that they would like a “committee letter,” that is, a composite letter that is drafted by a university’s pre-med recommendation committee. As implied by “composite,” such a committee letter pulls together comments from a variety of sources. My own experience was that the pre-med committee wanted at least three letters - two from science professors and one from a humanities professor. Since I only took my prerequisite science courses at that university, I didn’t have the humanities prof, but I was told that letters from employers would satisfy the requirement instead.
I have not heard of a single med school that is so picky as to say they want X letters from science faculty and Y letters from humanities faculty, although I suppose they exist. I do know of med schools whose requirements say (paraphrased) “If you don’t have a committee letter, you’d better give us a damn good reason.” [they are concerned that a committee might have strong reservations about a student who could charm a few individual people into writing good letters for him/her.]
Soooooo… if your advisor is talking about the letters that are needed for the university pre-med committee, so that you can get a committee LOR, you have a few choices. You can see if they’ll work around the requirement. (They may not.) You can try to hunt down 8-yr-old contacts. (Unless you were pretty amazing, those are going to be weak letters at best.) You can also consider going the med school application route without a committee letter, just solicit LORs from the folks you think can give you the strongest letters, and have them sent directly to the schools where you’re applying. Be aware that this could diminish the value of those letters at some schools where they put a lot of stock in committee letters.
While having LORs sent directly to med schools is a daunting prospect (I’ve always been a fan of the committee letter for the simple reason that it’s easy if you can do it), it IS possible to handle this. Lots of OPMs have done it for lots of reasons. Many of us have accrued our education at several places, and thus we didn’t have a chance to get a committee letter at any one place. Others of us found the pre-med committee so biased toward traditional students that we weren’t sure we would get a good letter from them - so bypassed them. And so on - there are lots of reasons.
Now, one other thing for you to ponder. There are some medical schools that put a time limit on their prerequisite courses. (and they all stipulate that your MCAT scores must be 3 yrs old or less) At 8 years, you may be bumping up against that time limit in some places. I don’t know when you’re planning to do your application, but even if you’re a few years off, you need to put together a list of schools you might apply to, and look into whether any of them have a time limit, since that could also change your plans.
I think you need to check with the schools you are interested in attending. If you have all of your pre-reqs already and are two years past graduation, you don't need the compositie letter from the advisory committee. As for the 2 science profs, that is standard at the school I attend also, but that is for the school, not med school. Med school would like to know that you met the school's standards, if applicable, no more. If you aren't in school, have taken the pre-reqs, and have LORs thats all you need!
I have to say that you have told me more information in your one posting than the entire hour and a 1/2 with the “official” university pre-med advisor. I was told today that schools only want LORs after they get your secondary applications. He said that it wouldn’t matter till the you knew the schools were interested in you, hence the secondaries. I am rather peeved at this moment…how can a pre-med advisor steer me in such a wrong direction.
I am a nurse, so my letters would be coming from academic MDs, people who have known me for several years. Other nurses who have gone to medical school have encountered the same problem I am having: some of my best faculty colleagues can not understand why I would want to leave nursing. They have made me feel as if I am betraying them by asking them to write me LOR.
My basic science faculty wouldn’t remember me anymore…one option is to try to cram a couple of science classes in the summer, and get a letter out of it there. So here comes the next question: does it matter weather I do it at a community college of a 4 year university?
And in terms of finding out what each school wants, should I just call them? i can’t really find this info on their websites, but I don’t want to be a pest either…hmmm…decisions decisions…I thought getting into med school was supposed to be a piece of cake
Here are my disjointed thoughts - worth what you pay for them, no doubt.
If I were you, assuming you don't need to retake prereqs due to them aging out, I'd still try to take one or two advanced biology classes - and here is why - your professional peers can evaluate you as a colleague, comment on your personal qualities, professionalism, etc. Even guarantee that you will be great as a practicing physician.
But - they cannot evaluate your potential to succeed as a student - and it is a student that you will be offered admission.
Getting a great LOR from a tough science prof adds another dimension - as s/he can comment on your abilities as a student - right now, not 8 years ago.
Admissions folks need to believe/know that you can cut it in the day-to-day of learning in a classroom - and doing well on standardized tests like MCAT is not quite the same thing (although - see the archives for discussions on studies correlating Step 1 scores with MCAT) – but still, you have to pass the classes in order to get to take the Step 1/2.
So, the question becomes, can you generate A's in sciences now? A recent science grade coupled with a great LOR tends to demonstrate that you have the ability to succeed in the academic side of medical school.
All the advise given seems pretty darn good to me. The bottom line always seems to be that you should check with a reliable source at the school(s) of interest what exactly they require and go from there. Good luck on the whole process!!!
I just wanted to add my 2 cents about retaking pre-reqs. My physics classes were 9 years old when I applied and there wasn’t an issue about them at any of the schools I applied to. I had decided to take a prep class (Kaplan) anyway because standardized verbal tests are not my strong area. So the physics review through them was enough to dust off the cobwebs. I did suprisingly well in the that section, so not re-taking the classes didn’t hurt me at all.
As for the letters of recommendation, I was in a formal post-bacc program, so I did receive a committee letter, but one of the schools I applied to still said that they “strongly recommended” (read required) letters of recommendation from my previous life. However, they did not specify whether those letters had to be from professors or supervisors. I tried to get one of each. I am convinced that the reason I didn’t get an interview at this school is because it took me so long to get the one professor I had stayed in touch with (who also had been my research advisor in undergrad) to get his letter out, despite the fact that I approached him in June, before I even sent my AMCAS in. It wasn’t that it was a weak letter (actually it was very strong), it was the fact that he had fallen severely chronically ill and it took hime a very long time to get things done (according to his wife). This is a school that believes that if you want to go there, you don’t make them wait. In the end, it was my own fault, but one of those hard lessons learned. So you may want to look at the requirements for the schools you are interested in to see if any have this requirement.
I do agree with the poster that suggested that you have at least one letter that addresses your ability to be a student. I think it would balance out what all of your recommenders will say about you and paint a more complete picture.