Happy Friday!! I hope you all have exciting weekend plans. I have been getting so many emails about school starting at the end of next month and I am ECSTATIC…and nervous. It looks like we will be in classes from 8am-5pm every day!
Anywaysssss….today’s post focuses on getting Letters of Recommendation (aka Letters of Evaluation). If it’s the 2017 application cycle and you are reading this, I hope you have already asked! However, if you haven’t you can still make it! When you read on you will see that I actually didn’t ask until June 27th (YIKES!)…through email. Maybe someday I will tell you all why I applied/got started on my application so late but for now, let’s just focus on the positive: IF I CAN DO IT SO CAN YOU! You are going to be a dentist, just persevere.
This is a lengthy post so here are some quick links:
Asking for Letters of Recommendation
1.) SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR THE FUTURE
First, you need to know WHO to ask. Look at your top school’s admissions website and see what they require/recommend. I think it is pretty standard that you have 2 professors (preferably science) and 1 dentist. (CHECK WITH YOUR SCHOOLS) Then you will have a 4th option in which you can ask advisors or someone else you worked closely with. (No family! I hope that is obvious but just
Then you will have a 4th option in which you can ask advisors or someone else you worked closely with. (No family! I hope that is obvious but just incase..)
Once you know the requirements/recommendations start getting these people to get know you! This post is mostly about asking professors but you can probably figure out how these rules and tips apply to the dentist you are shadowing as well:
The whole process of getting a shining letter of recommendation really starts as soon as you walk into class, your advisor’s office, or the dental clinic. From day 1 you are creating the writer’s idea of you. Are you hardworking? Are you dedicated? Are you passionate? You do not want your letter of recommendation (LORs) to reflect someone who is always running late and frazzled.
Each class, each professor is an opportunity to get them to know YOU; The passionate, driven, motivated student who really wants to be a dentist. It may be unrealistic to show up to every single class, to ace every exam, and to meet with every professor a fair amount of times…but the effort you do put in will not go unnoticed.
- Attend class(or shadowing): Both physically and mentally.
- Sit where the teacher can notice you
- Respond to and ask questions: (use your judgment here…if it is something that needs to be asked after class…wait until office hours, also don’t try to be the student that rushes to the answer every single time trying to beat everyone else.)
- Go to office hours: Even if you don’t really need to. You can discuss your exams, what to expect in the class, or just go introduce yourself!
2.) JUST ASK
The worst they can say is no. Heck! You may not even have to deal with the rejection, they may not even reply (lol! it happened to me!). Not to sound harsh, but if they do say no or don’t respond..you didn’t want their letter anyway. There are a few reasons a professor might say no:
1.) They don’t really know you
2.) They are really, really busy
3.) They just don’t do letters of recommendation
If you find yourself in this situation, keep in mind the purpose of a LOR. When the admissions board reads these letters they do not want to know about Dr. Awesome, they want to know about the undergrad student who worked dilligently, came to every class, and would make a great addition to their incoming class. If a professor doesn’t know that about you…the letter will not serve its purpose. If the professor is too busy to take the time to write a LOR that is personal and specific to you…the letter will not serve its purpose. If the professor doesn’t do LORs…well that one is self-explanatory.
I know it can be scary and intimidating, but not asking just means you are DEFINITELY not getting a letter from them, and the longer you wait the less time they have to really think about what they want to say OR the less time you have to ask someone else.
So..how do you go about asking:
FACE TO FACE
I feel that a face-to-face meeting is always best.
“Attending shows mutual acknowledgement, respect, and action”
You may use email to set up the meeting (or talk to them after class). Just say something like:
“Hi Dr.Awesome (except using their name), I am applying to dental school this summer and would love to talk to you about it. Is there a time that works best for you?”
They will see that you respect them enough to take time out of your busy schedule to meet with them and they will see that you are putting extra time and effort into your application process (not just emailing each professor you had with your fingers crossed..by the way absolutely DO NOT DO THAT…professors talk!)
It may be a good idea to prepare for the meeting before you even ask.
Professors are busy people and you are adding another thing to their to-do list. So here are some tips for you to make their life a little easier:
1) Prepare to ask ATLEAST a month before you want them to submit
2) Prepare a personal statement (it can be a very rough draft)
3) Update your resume (work experience, volunteering, awards)
4) Give them a list of the classes you took with them & your final grade (if multiple)
If you give them something to work with (even if they know you really really well), they are more likely to be able to really personalize your LOR. The LOR is almost like an essay and these items are great resources for them! They will be appreciative. Plus, you are going to need your personal statement for the application anyway..you might as well start working on it.
There are times when asking them face-to-face just isn’t possible. If you are in that situation it is OK. Professors are very familiar with LORs, some of them even have a template ready to go. They understand how challenging all of this can be, so if you need to send and email…do it! Just make sure that you are very polite and understanding. If they do want to meet up…you may have to make time for this. It’ll be worth it. I had to email one of my professors about this and he was incredibly sweet about it. Actually, he was the first to submit the letter. Also, I had only met with him once during office hours (not ideal, but you do not have to be 100% perfect to get into dental school no matter what you have heard) Here is my email:
I also emailed another professor. However, she had written me a personal statement for the DAT/MCAT review program I was attending, and when I met with her face-to-face to discuss that one we also discussed writing one for the actual application if I decided to apply. Here is what the conversation looked like:
In your email be sure to include the list of resources I mentioned above as attachments, explain how the process works, let them know you are excited to have their support!
3.) Send Thank-you notes
Once your professors submit their letters (AADSAS will send you a notification), you should send them a hand-written thank you note. Go to Walmart, grab a pack of thank-you cards and use them! They will come in handy in the future.
Some of my friends gave their professors little thank you gifts such as coffee mugs. This is absolutely not required, and a personal choice. If you do decide to gift them, keep it small. Any large item would be unprofessional.
Good luck future dentist!