Letters of Recommendation problem

I have one more question to ask you guys, since you all seem so helfpul for each other.

I took my science courses somewhere between 6 and 9 years ago. The professors that I had there are no longer even teaching (my chem professor that I had through all of chemistry and organic chemistry actually retired). So I have no way to get ahold of my previous science professors in order to get letters of recommendation from them, nor would they probably even remember me since it was so long ago. How am I supposed to get letters of recommendation for med school application?

I know many post-bacc programs offer pre-medical advisors and letters of recommendation but unfortunately I am not eligible for most post-bacc programs because I have taken almost all of my science requirements and they won’t let you enroll in those programs if you have.

I do plan on taking two to four biology classes this fall and maybe spring before I apply to med schools next year just to help me prepare for the MCATS and to bring up my BCPM gpa any that I can. Do you think professors that I have for only one course will be willing to give me a letter of recommendation? How did you guys get your letters of recommendation?

I do plan on volunteering at a couple hospitals and I think you might be able to get letters that way, but most schools require at least two from science teachers to attest to your “academic abilities”.

Thanks a lot!

Hi, I am new too. I just crossed this bridge, and even though I am a very new pre-med poster, I will share with you what I am learning for what it’s worth…

  1. I decided not to worry about the number of years of having the student-professor relationship. To me this was a small mental hurdle I am not going to change, unless I take two classes in a row with the same prof, which could help to resolve the problem.

  2. From before the class begins to after the class ends, make assertive efforts to pursue the professor for a positive letter. In other words, make sure the professor witnesses your strengths. For example, a strength may be that you are always prepared. If so, then email the professor prior to the first day of class and ask for the material that will be covered the first week, because you want to get reading. If teaching others is a strength, let the professor know you are interested in tutoring other students. If contributing to the class is a strength, then make sure to participate verbally in every class at least once so your professor can witness this strength. etc. etc. etc.

  3. During one of your office visits with the professor, when you feel ready, assertively ask for an LOR. If the professor is new, give him or her a sample LOR, maybe one that you wrote about yourself and a positive sample that you pull off the Internet. If the professor is experienced, maybe offer this sample letter. Offer these tools to show your expectations of a positive letter and how you see yourself. Also, give your resume. Take the professor to lunch after the end of the class so you can talk more, if you want.

  1. Do a Google search on this subject, and when you find the ‘How To’ publication you like regarding LORs, print it and offer it to the professor, IF the professor is new.

    This is what I did, and the people writing the letters seem to love the ‘tools’ I gave them to help facilitate the process. I gave them each my resume, a letter I wrote about myself about how I see my strengths, and a ‘How To’ one page publication I found on the Net.

    It worked great, but like I said, I am new, and I can not say “My letters helped to get me into med school,” bec I am a pre med.

    Oh, I wonder if this will help you…

    Possibly the best professors to ask are ones who have many years of teaching experience and a PhD. This way they can be more credible than a new teacher, possibly, because they can compare you to many more students than a new prof can, plus they will have the magic word “doctor” before the name!

    Does this help?

This is all excellent advice. You should definitely be looking at your relationship w/ your science(s) professor(s) as something to cultivate. Having the professor for just one course is not a concern.

One thing I did: in addition to my resume I also gave my referees a copy of my draft personal statement.


Quick question for those of you going through the motions - how do you submit the recommendations to AMCAS? Sealed or unsealed recommendations?


Recommendations don’t go to AMCAS. They go directly to the schools as part of your secondary application. It is always best that they be sealed and sent directly; some referees will provide you with a copy of the letter they have written but you should not ask for this or expect it. Sometimes there are forms where you check off a box: “I have/have not waived my right to see this letter.” ALWAYS waive your right to see the letter. A non-blinded LOR is worthless.

There are numerous ways that medical schools end up with your LORs. First and by far most common is the committee letter. In this scenario, your referees address their letter to the premed committee at your undergrad or postbacc institution. The committee, after completing whatever process it has in place for evaluating premeds from that school, writes a summary letter that includes much from the individual letters. Some committee letters will attach the original letters to the committee letter; others will quote at length from the original LORs as part of a narrative. A good committee letter really fleshes out an applicant and paints a complete picture of that person in the academic setting, and will usually run a couple of pages. Most med schools strongly prefer a committee letter and will ask you to explain why you don’t submit one.

There are reasons why you might not have a committee letter: two I can think of are you’ve done prereqs at several different schools, or if your current school has stringent eligibility requirements for the committee letter. (e.g. non-degree students might not be eligible, or they have an MCAT cutoff that you don’t meet)

Second LOR scenario is that you personally arrange to have letters sent to individual schools. I remember a fellow pre-med showing me the stack of envelopes she was providing to each referee; each envelope was addressed to a different med school and stamped. It was up to the LOR writer to copy the letter and send it.

Another way to handle this is with the portfolio service. In this scenario, you have your referee send ONE copy of the letter to the service. Then when you have your list of secondaries complete, you notify the service to send the whole packet to your list. You pay for this service.

LORs are important and the time you take to make sure you get good letters is critical. Cultivate relationships early; ask well in advance of deadlines for letters and make sure you ask people who you can trust to follow through. (every year there’s someone bemoaning the fact that they keep bugging someone to send a letter but it’s not getting done) And when you approach a potential referee, say something like, “I am starting to work on my med school application. Do you feel you would be able to write a strongly positive LOR for me?” If the person hesitates, or you otherwise get a sense that they won’t be positive, consider other referees instead.

Ugh, the logistics of the application process give me a headache!


  • Mary Renard Said:
Recommendations don't go to AMCAS.

Actually Dr. Renard, this year is the first that some schools will receive LOR's directly from AMCAS. Here's the link:

http://www.aamc.org/students/amcas/faq/am casletter...

The second link is to the list of participating schools and thier specific requirements:

http://www.aamc.org/students/amcas/faq/le tterscrit...

I just wish EVERY school was on board with this!

Thanks for these updates! Do you know if AACOMAS has the same policy?


At this point only AMCAS has this new service. And only a few med schools, at the moment, are participating. There is a fair amount of confusion as to how it works, but as I understand it, you (the applicant) submit your letters as you normally would - through your school letter service or Interfolio. If a med school is participating in this new AMCAS service, the letter service sends the letter packet to AMCAS which forwards it on to the school.

It is imperative that you, the applicant, keep track of what is happening with your LORs as this new system may have the usual bumps as the process gets ironed out.



Due to the fact that grad students at my school typically don’t use our schools premed committee for LOR’s, I contacted all the school directly on my list to ensure that they accept letters directly from letter writers (I’m only applying to 4 schools).

I’d suggest that nontrads call the schools they’re interested in for the rules especially if they’ve been out of school for a while, are in grad school, or aren’t planning to use services like Interfolio.