Okay guys, I thought that it would be a good idea to start contacting professors for LOR's. Now, whom do they address these to if I have yet to see who will send me a secondary? is this a wise idea, to get letters now give them to the pre-med advisor and let him keep them until secondaries come rolling in. Will the date matter? if the professors write them now they will have January on them or whatever, but secondaries will not start coming in until August. I just want to get these dang letters because I know how busy professors get and when the time comes for them it will be a jumping through your @$$ type of thing. And God forbid they take their sweet old time and November rolls around and still no LOR. I want to be on top of things, and this seems like a good idea but I am no expert here. Can someone please clue me in? By the way in the summer I will be at Mayo doing research so getting hold of professors then will be impossible unless I e-mail. Thanks.
My experience was somewhat unique, so it may be of little help.
I started college at one place, dropped out, went back 5 years later, dropped out again, transferred to another school and finished 11 years after my original matriculation to college.
I completed some of my prereqs at the first school, the others at the other school. Since I didn’t graduate from the first school, I didn’t qualify for a premed committee letter from them. Since I didn’t do enough science courses at the school I graduated from, I didn’t qualify for a committee letter from them either.
It seems that a committee letter is a blessing and a nightmare, from what I’ve gathered reading other people’s posts about waiting for the committee to meet, then write, then send their LOR. Some people posted having to wait 'til November for their committees to send out letters.
What I had to do was contact individual professors and get LOR from each of them. Most schools require at least three, and usually it breaks down to two science and one from your major, if not a science. Most schools also accept individual letters if you don’t qualify for a committee letter, but I think there are advantages for having one - and in most cases they require one if such a committee exists at your school.
The LOR should be less than a year old. If you have a premed committee office that will take charge of the letters, then it’d be best to send it to them. If you are applying to a small number of schools and/or have a good relationship with your letter writers, and you fall into the problem of waiting for the committee to meet - in like November, then perhaps you could have them send the letters to the schools directly as a pre-pre-med committee letter, with a note stating that the committee letter is forthcoming.
While I had to hustle to contact the professors and get them to mail out the letters to the schools directly, I didn’t have to wait for a committee to meet and draft one up for me.
So, the first thing is to find out if you have a pre-med committee that sends letters. Find out if they will hold the individual letters for you until they are ready to meet. Then find out when they meet, and if they meet late in the game, have your letter writers or the pre-med office send them out as soon as a secondary hits your mailbox. Actually, as I recall, I didn’t wait for the secondary to arrive before I had the letters sent off. I have a feeling as soon as any piece of mail with your name arrives at a school, they create file for you and add pieces as they roll in.
I pre-addressed and pre-stamped a bunch of envelopes for all my letter writers, and had them send the letters out directly. Later on, I found out that my pre-med office was willing to hold them and send them as needed, which was a big help - though they sometimes dragged their feet about it. Certainly it would have been better for me to have the professors send them out as needed, but they have lives too, so it was a compromise.
I cannot stress how filing the AMCAS/AACOMAS online apps at the first possible moment, then turning the secondaries around as soon as I received them, made a major difference in the number of interviews I received the second time I applied. The blessing of applying the second time around was that all my letters were written and in place and ready to send. I completed all of my secondaries in August, finished five interviews by mid-October, and received acceptances by November. So getting your letters early only helps you.
I’m not sure any of this helped. But boy was it cathartic for me to write it. Thank you!
Tae, thank you very much that is exactly what I was trying to find out. My schoold does not have a commitee (sp?) but the pre-med advisor can do like a composite/cover letter type for schools that only require one letter (either commitee or from the pre-med advisor). I am going to contact those letter writers now and have them submit the letter to my pre-med advisor and then if some schools require the actual letters he can pick and chose those that better represent my potential (he really knows me and thinks really highly of me which is a blessing). Okay, whom are the letters addressed to? that is my last question, I hope. Because I know not, what schools will show me secondary love, I have no clue how these should be addressed although I am sure the professors probably know.
Dear Admissions Committee
Dear Members of the Admissions Committee
You might find Getting Into Medical School: A Guide for the Perplexed by Kenneth V. Iserson MD to be very helpful. He had a great outline of the elements of a reference letter on page 180.
Susan - Chicago
You can make contact with the professors now to gauge their interest in writing a LoR for you. If they consent, promise to provide additional info later. I would suggest creating a packet for each author. Inside of each I would have the following items:
– a letter containing a statement of intent,instructions as to how the LoR needs to be done & to whom it must be sent and profusely thanking him/her for being the author
– an up-to-date, professional looking CV/resume
– a typed list of addresses (including specific names, titles and office) where the LoRs need to go
– pre-addressed, postage-paid, printed envelopes for each LoR
The idea: make this as simple, painless and massively professional as you can muster!
Second, before you go recruiting authors, make certain that your school's pre-med advising office does not run a LoR service. If they do, your life just got much simpler. This service allows all LoRs to go to the pre-med advising office to be verified as legit. Then, when you need the LoRs to go out to the schools, the pre-med office makes the copies and sends them for you, usually for a fee per application. As LoR confidentiality is a much bigger issue when applying to med school than it is applying to residencies, the med schools' truly expect the applicant to have NOT seen his/her LoRs – if all of the LoRs are handled through the pre-med office, this integrity is easier to insure.
If your school has such a service, make sure they will handle outside LoRs as well – letters from folks who are not faculty at their university. You will need to know how the service needs to receive those LoRs. Once you have this info, you can now construct the afore described packages and know that things will be handled well.
Lastly and critically…you will have to assertively, but respectfully & professionally follow up on both your LoR authors and the LoR service to ensure that your stuff gets to the schools in a timely fashion!!! If something is late, no one will cut you any slack what so ever…they deem it your fault for not having kept the fire to those people's feet.
My school has a letter service so that once the letter gets to their service, they file it.
when you want your letters to go to a school, they copy all of them and send them in one package, with a cover that explains their service (all schools get same packet, etc).
If I didn’t have this service, I think I would have used one of the commercial services that exist. this method has many advantages:
- You just get your writers to respond once to the service.
- you can ask them to respond well in advance when you might not be certain of what schools you want
- if you add schools later, no going back to your writers, just have the service send to another school
- you can check with the service to verify that things are received from the writer (not lost in mail)
I got an OK for being a letter writer verbally or via email first, then I sent out a packet.
when I made my “packet” for my letter writers, I sent them:
- cover letter - thanking them, instructing them on what to do, deadlines, thanking them again, etc.
- personal statement
- current transcripts (photocopies)
- stamped envelope addressed to service, with my return address (in case of mail foul-up)
- stamped postcard - addressed to me, written by me to say LOR from xxx mailed - and in my instructions asked them to drop both the letter and the postcard in the mail together.
I did not include a CV to most writers as it wasn’t necessary for them to write the letter. If it was, I did.
In one case, a letter writer (former boss/project mgr) wanted some guidance on what to say/how to say it since it wasn’t for a technical position - so I printed off some examples I found on the web and included them - along with a disclaimer of what parts I though were appropriate, what kinds of questions he might like to answer about me to spark his thought processes (e.g. if I were a pediatrician - would you bring your kids to me? why?) , et cetera.
I used a commercial service, www.referencenow.com, for my rec letters. It's been wonderful. To expand on some of the things LisaS wrote:
* They gave you the ability to make the letters open or confidential.
* You can build custom letter packets. The letters can come from any source. My research mentor wrote different letters for my MD/PhD and vanilla medical school. My emergency room mentor wrote three different letters - one for DO schools, one for MD schools and one for his alma mater. Although I waived my rights to see these letters, it was nice that they took the time to customize their evaluations.
* Some schools do require your evaluators to complete a school-specific form. The online ones, like Iowa, are easy. Minnesota's was very quantitative. MSUCOM was very extensive - and unique. I know the MSUCOM ones must have taken my recommenders a couple of hours to complete. I did not expect this - I wish I had known, so I could have prepared my writers for these exceptions at the time I asked them to write my rec letters.
* If you attended a school with a letter service or a pre-med committee that you did not use, Loyola asked you to write a letter to the Dean of Admissions to explain why. I subsequently used that letter for other schools that seemed to expect a committee letter or school-supplied copies.
* One school, KCOM, refused to accept the letters from the service. I had to go back to two folks and ask them to print, sign and mail the same letter directly to KCOM. This pushed my app back by six weeks. Oh, well.
I thought the initial $60 fee (which covers five years of storage) and $6.00/packet (?) to be quite reasonable. Every set of letters went out within one business day. For a larger fee, you can have them sent the same day. Every packet had tracking numbers from USPS or FedEx.
After some of the horror stories I heard from friends and on SDN, I worried a lot about my rec letters. It was a waste of energy. Using ReferenceNow was one of the least stressful parts of my application cycle. I highly recommend this service to students that don't qualify for the school services, or want a more controlled, professional experience.
Susan - Chicago
Susan - thanks so much for describing your experience with ReferenceNow. I will look into them. My school has a reference service, but since I am not a matriculated student, I am ineligible to use it.
I haven’t done the LORs yet, but a fellow student at my school did the following:
He gave the “packets” to the writers. In the instructions he asked them not to mail the letters directly, but to stuff the envelopes, seal them, and sign the back.
This gave him the ability to send the letters as soon as his secondaries rolled in.
My question is this: Is that NOT the “right” thing to do? Seems to me that it would make letter scavenging much easier, providing one has the will power and integrity not to read them.
The catch is that if your school offers a letter service, esp in connection with a pre-med adcisory committee and a composite LoR from the committee – the schools are likely to wonder why you opted out of this service. It tends to raise questions…using the school's system tends to add validity to things shipped out under the official auspices of the school.
Now, if you are like Geoff Aumaugher and your school does not offer such services, then the scavenging system may work OK. But, if you are having to have individuals write LoRs to other individuals, in my humble opinion, it would appear more professional to have each LoR addressed to the recipient – something that would not be possible using the system above.
UTD has a pre-med committee to make up our packets, and restrictions on the LORs. There can be no more than 5, and 2 MUST be from UTD science professors. Having had BIo and OChem at a CC worried me, but found out that my advisor’s classes are considered “science” and she offered to write a letter a long time ago! So, I have my2 science LORs, one from a UTD Soc prof, one from my supervisor at work (nursing), and one from the director of the respite for chronically ill children where I work on Fridays! All are enthusiastic, but they still have to actually write the LORs and return them in about 4 weeks!!
Be sure to gracefully stay on your authors to assure that those LoRs arrive in time. I have heard from more than one lamenting soul about late LoRs and whether or not programs will cut them some slack. Word of warning – the programs will extend the deadline for no one under no circumstances.
Get LORs written as soon as it's reasonable–i.e., once your association with the person has ended, or a month or two before you think they're going to need to go in. If you have to scavenge, however–i.e., you have no letter-forwarding service–you may want to ask your recommenders to write the letter now, save it, and then give them stamped and addressed envelopes to each program to which you send secondaries.