Since you’re going to need at least three letters of recommendation you need to make sure that you have an airtight plan for what you’re going to do to get them. And not only are you looking for recommendations from your science courses, you will also want to get at least one recommendation from a professor teaching a non-science course, like humanities or social science. Obtaining strong letters of recommendation will require advance planning. Here are some ways to be proactive about getting the recommendations that you need to apply to medical school.
Go to office hours. Visiting your professor during his/her office hours will help establish a positive interaction. Stopping by your professor during office hours gives them the opportunity to get to know you on a one-on-one basis. Your best letters will come from professors who know you well. In addition to going to office hours, professors can get to know you if you speak up in class and ask questions. When you go to office hours it is important to have a reason for your visit. Otherwise it will just be an annoyance and waste of time for the professor if you’re just “stopping by to say hello.” Have a reason for visiting – whether it’s asking for clarification on a concept you can’t get the grasp of or having a discussion about a research project that you learned your professor is involved with. Be interesting- be yourself and don’t hide who you are as a person and be interested – “Google” your professor’s name and do a quick background check on what projects your professor may be involved in and ask questions, they’ll like this a lot – who doesn’t like to talk about themselves.
Give ample time. Your goal is to make this process as easy and seamless as can be for your recommenders. You just want to make their job easy! This means giving them ample time to write your recommendation. As you know, your professors may have very busy schedules so it is very important that you give your professors at least 2 months to write your letters. And don’t dare wait until the end of the semester to ask for your letter because you will most likely not be the only student requesting a recommendation. Giving your professors ample time will also work in your favor because they can spend more time writing a quality letter and won’t feel rushed to put something together because of time constraints.
Take more than one class taught by a professor. If you take a more than one course taught by the same professor, and get a good grade, this is a sure tight way to get a good recommendation. Not only will they be able to see first-hand that you are capable of excelling academically, they may also get the opportunity to learn more about you on a personal level. Although sometime not available to you until your senior year, you may also want to look into taking an independent study course which will give you the opportunity to get to know a professor on a one-on-one basis.
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