the premed advisor letter

I graduated with my BA (Humanities/Intercultural Relations) in 2001. I started undergrad as a premed, and then ended up on a different route. Last year I picked up where I had left off in premed classes, and I’m now finishing up physics and planning to take the MCAT in June 08, applying for 09 admission.

I did not enroll in a post-bacc premed program, instead I’ve been taking classes part-time and working full-time. I’ll have LORs from my recent OChem instructor, an undergrad prof I’ve worked with since college, volunteer experience, and my current job at a long-term health care facility.

Anyone else been in the same boat? Any advice for me? Is the lack of that “premed committee” recommendation something I should be concerned about? Should I be seeking out internships or other experiences? Thanks!

NO… Be THANKFUL there is no committee… All they would do it try to pigeon hole your experiences into the “standard form”

As a non-trad you are trying to sell your “uniqueness”, something a group could never do as well as individual letters… After all what is a camel but a horse by committee? Especially if you have a special relationship with the letter writer!


Having read lots of individual letters AND committee letters, I would hesitate to characterize either of them quite so broadly. It is true that a committee letter can be quite formulaic… but if the school has taken pains to make the formula one that allows an individual to shine through, the resultant letters can be damn good. In other words, there are good committee letters and not-so-good committee letters.

Similarly, there are good individual letters and individual letters where the prof clearly just dialed it in. Since the OP has individuals lined up for recommendation letters, I urge you to spend enough time with these people to enable them to write a really good personalized letter. I have seen letters that told great personal stories about applicants. I’ve also seen letters, I swear, where the prof simply gave the applicant’s grade and rank in the class - generally good, so that the prof could conclude, “They must be a good student.”

OP, you sound like you’ve got good stuff lined up already. Don’t sweat the letters. Some schools you apply to are going to ask you why you don’t have a committee letter and that’s easy enough to explain from what you’ve said here.



Mary is probably correct, I tend to go weensy teensy bit overboard on the hyperbole… However, I do have strong opinions and you guys need to hear both!

My main posit is this: as an older student you are trying to present titillating package to the admissions committee: an odd dichotomy of presentation, on one hand you must be “like everyone else” as far as “jumping the hoops”, grades, courses, MCAT etc, while on the other hand showing that YOU are VERY different, set above and downright special distinctly separate from the 20 somethings. A task I have much less confidence can be accomplished by a “committee” (who are geared by and large for the cookie cutter traditional student).

My point is this with individual letters there are more options in YOUR HANDS (assuming you have special letter writers in mind, those who know you well and appreciate your accomplishments, vision etc).

I had a very delicate agenda with my letters. I needed to embellish my academic record as well as highlight accomplishments and show off the obstacles I overcame without bragging (let them think they have discovered some interesting and impressive but secret fact). The syntax and the nuances intended by the writer were critical. Perhaps this is why hearsay in generally not admissible in court.

Since I taught undergraduate physiology (very successfully) my boss in the biology department was the lynchpin letter. This letter came up by name in my open records interview, while I have no idea what was actually written (as with the others), the interviewers were impressed and said so specifically!

Because I wanted to share that I had ADHD without trying to use it as an excuse, or try to bypass any hoops. The director of the tutoring program wrote one commenting on the persistence and academic growth… the surprising referral and diagnosis of ADHD and the subsequent remarkable evolution from using tutors for panic learning in self defense to eventually using tutors as facilitators for work already completed.

Since my best subject ever was the Organic Chemistry, two faculty volunteered to write, who could turn that down, despite two from the same area… One of whom a senior faculty researcher who “grants” only 3 letters a year and who interviews those chosen in order to get all the facts just right (do you think a committee would do better or worse).

HOW in the world based on this agenda could I have counted on a committee to get all of this JUST RIGHT? Can you see how easily this agenda could have been mucked up by a data compiler? How the net effect could have gone disastrously wrong with the simplest misunderstanding of the nuances? I am grateful that KU does offer a collection point and mailing service for letters, a committee convenience without the tampering.


Ethyl - I am in a very, very, similar situation as you are and I have to say I agree with Mary on this one. Premed committee letters can be formulaic but they can be really good too. For mine I was actually interviewed before they put it together so not only did they have previous recommendation letters to look at but they had a chance to get to know me on a personal level. That being said, I do not think a committee letter will break you either. If you don’t have one the key is to select individual recommendation letters from professors that knew you beyond just the classroom. If they only knew you based on what grade you received in their course there is only so much they can write about you.

In regards to what else you could/should do - I would definitely seek out doing some shadowing. I see you are working in a long-term healthcare facility but I think you shadowed an actual physician you will get a new perspective on medicine. It will help you with your personal statement (at least it did for me). Also, it gives you another chance to get another recommendation. Also, if you are going to apply to many DO schools, they actually require that you shadow a DO. I didn’t know that so that kinda limited my list of DO schools I applied too.

I don’t know if you are taking classes now but if you are not, I would just continue doing some volunteer activities. One thing I have learned is that they don’t want to see you idle. I know you are studying for the MCATs while juggling a full-time job (I feel ya) but I get the sense that medical schools want to see that you are really committed. I am not saying volunteer 20 hours a week cause thats a strain but a few hours a week over a long period time (which for you would be about 10 months) will look very nice on that AMCAS application.