The A-Z of the LOR Process

I’m hoping someone can help me here since I’m not in a formal post-bacc program and am kinda figuring this stuff out myself as I go…

  1. What do I need to know about the LOR process (common pitfalls, best way to collect and submit-I’ve heard about Interfolio, but that looks like it will add up quickly!)

  2. I am scheduled to take the MCAT for the first time Aug. 4 (late, I know-I work 40-60 hours a week).

  3. Info I am planning to give to LOR sources:

    GPA, specialty interest, volunteer and research experience, 2 patient interaction experiences I have learned from in my current position as a technician at an optometrists office.

    I am still working on my PS. Do I have to give a copy of my exact PS to my referees? Some of my personal/medical history I’d rather keep private from my current boss.

    Does this list of LOR sources sound good, should I add or delete anyone?

  4. Committee letter

  5. Family friend MD I also shadowed once. Grew up with his kids, has known me since birth.

  6. Optometrist I work for. Technically not a Dr., but there are health related aspects to the job! I am going to ask that he can speak specifically to my abilities with patients.

  7. Prof. whose class I aced, I TA’ed for, did research for and is on the committee. Will this be redundant with a committee letter?

  8. The hospital I volunteer at has a volunteer office that writes letters (generic, I’m sure). The one nurse I worked most regularly with speaks in broken English, so I am hesitant to ask her to write something independently. I also haven’t been there since Dec. 2011 (work 40-60 hrs/wk. and MCAT prep at all other times).

    Any input would be greatly appreciated!

If anyone could answer any portion of any of this, it would be a big help, I know there are a lot of questions in there. Since I didn’t do a formal post bacc program, I’m figuring all of this out on my own the best I can. I’ve read through previous posts on LORs here, but they contain deadlinks or costly sites.

First step for me would be, what’s the advantage of using interfolio and sites you have to pay for if AAMC collects lors for almost all medschools except Duke?

Doesn’t your pre-health committee have guidelines on what kind of letters they need submitted for a committee letter?

From what I’ve gathered, it’s probably a good idea to stay away from family/friends for LOR’s.

I’m not sure who on this board said it, but “if you’re not blowing through wads of cash in the app process, you’re not trying hard enough.” Yes, Interfolio is costly, but if I could go back in time I would’ve done my letters through them rather than the competitor that my pre-med advising office used by default.

If your school has a pre-med office GO SEE THEM RIGHT NOW and get their help. If not, get used to searching OPM forums for answers and posting a lot.

Supply whatever your committee requests, get the prof letter, skip any family/friend letters. I was advised not to get a letter from a dentist I had shadowed, despite how great it would have been, so I suggest you drop the optometrist, too.

You need letters written by professionals - find the time to shadow a doctor who will write you a LOR. You will be expected to shadow a certain number of hours for them to evaluate you, as well as supply your PS and relevant information for them to use to write said letter. An MD/DO letter can be pretty important.

RHouston - AAMC’s letter service cannot, I think, be used for the texas application process (which I admit I know almost nothing about), nor for AACOMAS. If you are planning to apply MD and DO, using the Interfolio service lets you pick which letters you want to go where - one central place for them to be sent and then you can select a letter package for AAMC, and whichever letters each DO school you would apply to wants. As I recall it was $100 for the year for the service plus some pretty small additional fee per letter package sent out. That was 2 years ago though so I don’t know their pricing now.

My LOR writers could email a PDF of their letter, or fax it, or mail it and they would scan it in. So was able to accomodate some folks who were less computer savvy. That’s what I liked about it. Hopefully someone who used the AAMC letter service can comment on how that experience worked for them.


Hi guys, thanks for all of the responses!

older guy: My school doesn’t have guidelines for what the committee needs. We just have to schedule an interview and they look at MCAT scores, GPA etc and either give support or don’t, and recommend which schools you would be competitive at.

PixieSanders: my postbacc school has a premed committee, but the premed advisor is completely new and doesn’t really know what he is doing. He doesn’t even know much of anything about DO schools, and thinks they’re a waste of time. I’ve looked through the threads (back 3 years) on LORS, and a lot of the info refers to links that don’t open or sites that cost money to access the information.

To clarify re:the optometrist letter-it would be a letter from my most recent employer, who has seen my experience with patient interaction. Is that still a bad idea?

Also, the family friend is a doctor that I have shadowed and saw some interesting things that I’ve made a reference to in my PS. Was it a mistake in shadowing him because he’s a family friend? I chose to because he’s a top orthopedic surgeon in the NY area. Is it ok to get a letter despite having grown up with his kids?

Kate 429: thank you! That was very helpful. I had no idea. I haven’t really decided whether or not to apply DO, not because I’m opposed to the idea, but because I haven’t found a school that looks like an especially good fit, but I do want to keep my options open.

Thank you guys again so much!

If it’s from your most recent employer, I would definitely add the letter from the optometrist.

Thanks for the input sevenwheels! It’s actually my current employer.

I was getting disheartened-afterall, I gained experience collecting medical histories (anyone that’s done this knows it is definitely a skill to do so accurately and quickly while not making the patient feel rushed!), running medical tests on a wide range of patient types (older folks with tremors and physical impairments often present challenges, younger folks with parents that let em run wild also present challenges ). I’ve also learned a good deal about things like how to deal with non-compliant patients, patients who steal medical supplies (eep!) , not letting a patient direct the plan of action, and more.

I sent him my request via interfolio (thanks again for the input Kate429 and Pixiesanders!) this afternoon.

OPM’ers, y’all are the best!

  • RHouston Said:

Also, the family friend is a doctor that I have shadowed and saw some interesting things that I've made a reference to in my PS. Was it a mistake in shadowing him because he's a family friend? I chose to because he's a top orthopedic surgeon in the NY area. Is it ok to get a letter despite having grown up with his kids?

I'm not sure how the family-friend aspect would be considered by an adcom. It may even be a total non-issue.

If I was in that situation I would use his letter, as it is likely to be strongly written. However, I would *also* ask him to recommend another doctor to shadow, for the purposes of a separate letter. This way, you have two good letters, and any doubts an adcom might have about the quality of the letter written by your family friend would be eliminated by a non-biased letter from another professional.