Who should write your letters of rec as a nontrad? Your boss? Your undergrad professors? Or your prereq science professors? Here is everything you need to know!
The questions are taken directly from the Nontrad Premed Forum. If you haven’t yet, register for a free account and ask away! Also, please check out all our other podcasts on the MedEd Media Network so you can get as much help as you need along this premed journey!
[01:00] OldPreMeds Question of the Week:
“For financial reasons and thus a full time corporate job, I have elected to pursue my post-bac coursework at a local community college. I justify this with the fact that I had a 3.8 undergraduate GPA from a top 50 university and a top Master’s in an unrelated field (hopefully making up for the science coursework being done at a community college). My question is, from where should I source my letters of recommendation, my undergraduate alma mater? Master’s Program? Science professors at the community college? Any help on where to ask for the letters and how to go about that without the help of a structured pre-med or post-bac program would be greatly appreciated!
Have a great holiday season. Love the work that you are doing, I would not have half of the pre-med knowledge or vocabulary that I do without your work.”
[01:40] What Letters of Recommendation Should Be
The general rule of thumb is two science and one nonscience for letters of recommendation from faculty members. If you can get a physician letter, that would be great. If you’re applying to DO schools, try to get a DO letter.
If you’re doing a do-it-yourself postbac at a community college, majority of your science coursework may have been done at a community college and not in undergrad or in your Master’s. Therefore, you need to ask your community college professors for those letters of recommendation for the science letters. So it depends on where you’ve taken the science coursework.
You can also potentially ask from your professors for the older science courses you’ve taken, that is if you’ve maintained any sort of contact with those professors.
[03:20] Get Letter from People Who Know You
You don’t want the letter writer to write how great of a student you are for receiving an A in the class. This may only do more harm than good. If you have a favorite professor from undergrad of six years ago but you’ve maintained contact with and they understand your journey, an older letter of recommendation from that professor is great because they know you.'You want people who know you, not just classes where you've gotten A's.'Click To Tweet
Don’t use a letter from six years ago, but a professor from six years ago with an updated letter (to the year you’re applying) is a great letter. But if all of your professors in a four-year university from a long time ago and don’t know and you haven’t maintained contact with them, then get letters from your community college professor. Again, get a letter from somebody who knows you now.
[04:23] Build That Relationship
Go start early by introducing them you’re a premed and that you may be asking them for a letter of recommendation. Set those expectations from the beginning and hopefully, they will put in a little effort to try to get to know you.
Again, the best one is from somebody who knows you and if it’s been a really long time and potentially can get the required letters of recommendation from a non science professor, you can exchange that for somebody who knows you, like a work supervisor or somebody else who can potentially write you a better letter of recommendation than some random professor from ten years ago who doesn’t know you anymore.