My Online Professors Won’t Write Me a Science LOR

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OPM 339: My Online Professors Won't Write Me a Science LOR

Session 339

This nontrad is struggling to get science LORs due to the distance and circumstances of online science classes. Does a behavioral health LOR fulfil the same need?

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

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OldPreMeds Question of the Week

“I went back to take postbac science classes in 2020 and 2021 and courses were online. My professors were pretty distant and seem hesitant to write LORs because they don’t quote “know” me. They didn’t hold office hours and I was working full-time plus two more part-time jobs. 

I have a master’s degree but not science. One is in behavioral health. I can easily get a reference from a teacher there. Is there any chance I can apply without the science teacher LOR? I put off applying for two years due in part to this.”

Reach Out to Medical Schools

Rather than simply delaying your application, Directly contact each medical school to explain your unique situation due to virtual classes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Obviously, this made it difficult to build relationships with science professors and obtain strong letters of recommendation from them.

“As a non traditional student, you’re going to have challenges around meeting all of the requirements… Then with COVID being virtual, it’s really hard to build those relationships.”

  • Schools are not looking for a generic letter that simply states that a student did well in a class and received an A. They want more than just a grade; they want to get a sense of the student’s personality, communication skills, and potential as a future doctor.
  • If you’re unable to obtain letters from professors who truly know you because you didn’t have the opportunity to interact with them, consider reaching out to your master’s professors instead. They may be able to provide a more accurate and comprehensive representation of who you are.
  • For students in similar situations, it is crucial to reach out directly to each medical school and engage in open communication. Instead of simply conveying an inability to meet their specific requirements, it is important to provide relevant information about alternative options or references available, allowing the schools to make informed decisions

Flexibility is Key

The most non-traditional friendly schools will be flexible with their requirements. Some schools are more understanding of non-traditional applicants’ situations.

Some medical schools, like Sam Houston State, have taken a commendable step towards providing clarity and transparency in their requirements. They understand that nontraditional students may face challenges in obtaining recommendations from professors they haven’t interacted with recently. As a result, they offer flexibility in their guidelines, encouraging applicants to provide whatever references they can obtain. They clearly state that alternative letters are acceptable if it has been over a year since undergraduate studies. This level of transparency is ideal.

“The schools that are most flexible are going to be the most nontrad friendly because they understand… you’re going to have challenges around meeting all of the requirements.” 

That being said, non-traditional friendly schools will be flexible with applicants who face challenges meeting standard requirements.

Give Schools Your Best Option

In closing, Dr. Gray advises the student to provide the schools with the best letter option they have, which is from their master’s program, and let the schools decide if it will suffice for the application. The student should gain clarity from each school rather than continuing to delay their application.

“Don’t just delay for two years. That’s two years of income later on down the line. That’s two years of your life that you’ve put on hold.”

Ultimately, be able to provide each medical school with the strongest letter of recommendation you have available, in your case, your master’s program. Let the schools evaluate if this letter will suffice rather than continuing to delay their application due to uncertainty. Gaining a clear decision from each school is better than prolonging the process.


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