Severus Snape
Easy Tip: Don’t take classes from professors like Snape if you want to get a LOR

It’s the beginning of the new semester and you take a seat in your new Physics 106 class, excited to get an A and become the professor’s favorite student.  The only thing is, you notice that there are 200 other students in the class!  So how do you get your professor to know you well enough to write you a letter of recommendation?

Here are 10 tips:

1. Don’t take classes with 200 students in them.  Professors for these classes are perhaps not the best to get letters from because it IS hard to get them to know you personally.

2. Take classes from good, approachable professors.  Look on and look at their helpfulness rating.  Students will also usually comment on if the professor is nice or a total jerk.

3. Take Honors classes, when possible.  Professors love honors students, especially smart ones.

4. Go to office hours and prepare questions in advance.  Don’t ask dumb questions that TAs could answer.  Ask them to clarify something they said in lecture to show that you were actually listening, or ask them to clarify something you read to show that you actually did the reading.  If you feel like you will really get along well with the professor, ask them about their research, their career, and express interest in joining one of their research projects.

5. Answer and ask questions during lecture.  This will help them remember your face and they will recognize you when you come in to office hours.

6.  Let them know about your interest in medicine and why you want to be a doctor.  Many professors feel more comfortable writing letters once they know your reasons for going into medicine.  Sometimes they mention that in your letter, so remember what you tell them.  However, let this work itself into the conversation after your first visit, otherwise the professor will just think “this premed kid is sucking up to me just to get a letter.”

7.  Take classes from professors you already know.  I took two classes from the same professor, which helped her know me more over the course of 2 years.  I also took a class from my research adviser, which gave me a letter that double-counted for research and a science professor.

8.  Ask the professors to write you a letter once the semester is over.  If you are not applying for med school for a couple of years, it’s ok!  Have them save the letter on their computer so that they can send it to AMCAS when the time comes.  Be sure to keep in contact with them, however, so that they will remember you when you need to cash in that letter.  It’s much easier for them to write a letter for you now than 2 years and 800 students later.  Go to their office personally to ask them to send it rather than asking through email.

9.  Have a resume on hand.  Many professors ask for a resume so that they can get a better idea of who you are outside of class.

10.  Plan ahead to get your LORs.  Consider each professor as a possible LOR candidate.  Then by the time you apply, you will have the option of choosing your best professors to write your LORs instead of being forced to ask professors who don’t know you very well.

If you have any other tips that have worked for you, post them in the comments section below!  Also, for a more comprehensive guide to LORs, see my LOR page here.