I’m currently at an SMP and working on my application for the upcoming cycle. Last semester, our courses had a merry-go-round of professors, so I haven’t built many strong, long-term relationships with professors, though I’ve done very well in my classes. There was one professor in particular who really seemed to love me, so I thought he’d be perfect. I decided I’d ask him for a letter in January (yes, I later realized that I could have just asked for one then; can’t fix that now).
I reached out, asking for the letter and to meet so that he could get to know me better before writing the letter. His response:
I’m so sorry if I failed to get back to you. I get a request such as yours from time to time. I have to say that a letter from me is about as close to useless as you can get. Everything that I can say, the admissions committee either already knows or will know from other sources. Your grade in biochem. They have that. You’re a good person and you want to be a physician. The people on the committee want to hear that from someone who knows you far better than I. Moreover, my personal influence at [this school] does not extend to admissions! You need letters from people who have spent significant time with you in previous schooling, a job, your church, your family. Make sure that they establish how they know you in their letter. I assume that the admissions people would prefer to see testimonials of your integrity, perseverance, endurance, optimism, organizational skills and the like. If you wish, I will be delighted to talk with you about your plans, although I know little about the current admissions process.
My best to you
On the one hand, I respect that he has this thought and wants me to get the best recommendation possible, but on the other hand, as a non-traditional student who needs science teachers, all of my options are shaky at best. I graduated undergrad in 2015 and my SLP program in 2017, and then I basically moved across the country and (unintentionally) cut ties, so those letters wouldn’t be reflective of the current me at all. Meanwhile, this is a professor that I had enlightened discussions with during class, I asked good questions, noticed I was leading study sessions for his block after he saw a random BBB recording in his Canvas, told people to ask me if they had questions, and I even shared a couple of jokes with, so I really didn’t think there would be a much better option! Also, I’m applying to a lot more places than [this school] and thus don’t care how much pull he has here. Still, if that’s the way he’s responded to me asking if he can write me a strong LOC and stating that I can meet with him to add depth, maybe he really isn’t a good choice and would fumble the ball regardless of how good of an option he technically should be.
The couple of med students I’ve asked here have all felt pity for my situation, but their responses have ranged from cutting my losses to just telling him that I need him to check a box and accepting that it won’t be the strongest of my letters because sometimes it comes down to that.