Should You Take Classes Just for Letters of Recommendation?

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OPM 232: Should You Take Classes Just for Letters of Recommendation?

Session 232

Should you take classes just for a letter of recommendation? Today, I have a great question about letters of recommendation.

Questions answered here on the podcast are taken directly from the Nontrad Premed Forum over at Please go ahead and register for an account, ask your question, and have fun with the community.

And if you haven’t yet, go check out It’s the new technology platform that I’m building with my partner Rachel Grubbs who has almost 20 years of experience in the test preparation premed world. And together, we are building a platform that will hopefully change the premed landscape, especially for nontraditional students. This is not an application tool. This is not a tracking tool. This is a guide to help guide you on your journey to medical school.

Also, please be sure to check out all our other podcasts on Meded Media as we try to bring you as many resources as you need on this journey.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[02:22] OldPreMeds Question of the Week

“Hello I am new to the forum so hopefully this question hasn’t been asked before. I graduated in 2017, took some time off, and am now preparing to apply to the 2021 cycle! 

I have kept in touch with one science professor but I don’t feel like I have a strong enough relationship with any other science or non-science professors. I do, however, have great letters from the managers where I worked the last two years but I know different schools have different requirements for LOR’s.

My BPCM/sGPA by year was 3.2 > 3.4 > 3.7 > 3.88 (cumulative 3.58) and my overall was 3.5 > 3.6 > 3.8 > 3.9 (cumulative 3.72). 

Although I am not super concerned about my grades thanks to the upward trend, should I consider taking postbac classes to give my GPA a little boost and make more recent relationships with professors who could write me a more personal Letter of Rec? 

Also if the classes I am taking are not prereqs, is it okay to take them at a community college?

Thank you so much! I love the podcast!”

[03:40] The General Rule of Thumb

A lot of nontraditional students are stuck in this world whether you planned on taking gap years, or you’re a super nontrad who’s career-changing and coming in after being out for many years.

The general rule of thumb after talking to lots of students and lots of deans and directors of admissions is that there seems to be this five-year window. 

That if you’ve been out of school more than five years, a lot of schools will potentially give you a pass on their LOR requirements. And if it’s less than five years, you’re going to need whatever those required LOR’s are.

The most straightforward thing to do is go directly to the medical schools and tell them that you’ve been at the school for these number of years. But you have friends or relationships with your volunteer supervisor or work supervisor. Then ask if you can replace the required science letter with a letter from your work supervisor or your volunteer supervisor, and see what the school says.

[05:17] How Can Help You

When you’re going through this process, and you have your grades in and you have your activities in. We could see that you’ve marked a specific professor as a potential writer for your letter of recommendation. We can see the schools that you’re applying to or you want to apply to. Then we would also know that they are pretty lenient with their letters of recommendation. And here’s what they have told us. That’s the kind of amazing data that we are building into, hopefully, at some point in Mappd.

Now, when Mappd comes out, it won’t have all that data, It’s going to take a while to build up all of that data. But that’s the kind of stuff that you can look forward to with Mappd.

[06:04] Reach Out to Your Professor

Now, if the school won’t allow you to replace your LORs from your professors with LORs from your work supervisor, then either can’t apply to that school, or you go back to school to get those letters of recommendations that they require.

Try to reach back out to that professor and tell them what you’ve been up to and the reason you’re contacting them is if you could possibly get a strong LOR from them. Then you can rekindle those relationships as well. This is probably better than spending money to take a class.

[07:22] Consider the Number of Schools You’re Applying To

“It all depends on the school, which is unfortunate because there are a lot of medical schools in this country.' Click To Tweet

If you apply to the average of 15-17, whatever those schools are, depending on the application service, then that’s a lot of schools that you’re going to have to reach out to. 

Now, you have to understand that those schools are responding to a ton of phone callsand emails. Which is why hopefully, with Mappd, they’ll be friendly to us and give us that information. So they don’t have to continue to answer all those questions.

[07:57] Taking Prereqs at a Community College

In terms of taking prereqs at a community college with that GPA, there typically won’t be any issue.

“If you really struggled in undergrad, and now you go back to community college and you do well, there's going to be a question.”Click To Tweet

Where community college comes into play is when you really struggled in underground then you go back to community college and you do well. The question is, did you escape to community college because you thought you were going to do better?

Therefore, you’re proving our point that community college is easier, or did you not do well in a four-year university because you had other things going on? And that’s all fixed now. And you fixed your study habits and now you’re succeeding because you’re a better student at community college with the same level of difficulty as the classes at the university are.

That’s the dilemma that medical schools are in is how do I know why exactly you’re taking classes at community college. 

So if you do well at community college and you’ve proven yourself academically, be ready to answer that question of why did you take these classes at community college? Just be ready with that in your interview trail.

As you go through that process, check out Episode 330 of The Premed Years Podcast where I did talk to a student who did the majority, if not all, of his prereqs classes at a community college because he worked full-time as a nontraditional student. And that’s just what fit with his schedule as a working father. He had plenty of interviews and multiple acceptances. But at almost every interview, he had to answer that question of why he went to a community college.


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