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Pre-Appliction Dillema - mention Masters or not?!

Should I mention I have a Masters (with a bad reference letter from my advisor)?  

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  1. 1. Should I mention I have a Masters (with a bad reference letter from my advisor)?

    • Yes, it is better than just an undergrad.
      13
    • No, the reference letter could be the Achilles heel.
      2


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Hi All,

 

Just a short thread to get your thoughts on preparing my application - please be patient and comment!

 

I am applying to some med schools in Ontario, UoT being the main one.

My background is in engineering (computer science):

I have a undergraduate degree in Software Engineering - received 5 years ago

and a Master of Philosophy (which was purely research-based) in Artificial Intelligence, received last year.

 

Both degrees were obtained in the UK.

 

Now I want to apply to medicine, which I always wanted to do (don't ask what happened!).

 

Here is the problem:

 

I did not get along at all with my Masters supervisor... he hated my guts and so did I his! So I am not going to get a good reference letter from him. And since the whole degree was research-based, there are no transcripts... It's just pass or fail (which I passed). And no, I did not publish any papers.

 

I got the best possible marks for my undergrad degree. And my undergrad supervisor was amazing, I know I will get a very good reference letter from him.

 

Now, for the schools I am applying to, you have to have MCAT, of course, but it is used as a flag only, the marks don't actually matter as long as I pass them at a reasonable mark (which with my IT background is a challenge itself! lol) - so my application will be basically judged by my academic achievements.

 

Now my question is this:

On my application, should I mention my Masters? If I do, I will have to get a reference letter from my supervisor which will be terrible. Or should I just skip that and only mention my undergraduate degree? Bear in mind tho that my Masters university was a lot more prestigious than my undergrad one. In my resume, I can say I've been working for myself over the past 5 years (like what I do now) and just skip the Masters...

 

Please help, any thoughts I would greatly appreciate. I am at a loss here.........

FJ

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Hi All,

 

Just a short thread to get your thoughts on preparing my application - please be patient and comment!

 

I am applying to some med schools in Ontario, UoT being the main one.

My background is in engineering (computer science):

I have a undergraduate degree in Software Engineering - received 5 years ago

and a Master of Philosophy (which was purely research-based) in Artificial Intelligence, received last year.

 

Both degrees were obtained in the UK.

 

Now I want to apply to medicine, which I always wanted to do (don't ask what happened!).

 

Here is the problem:

 

I did not get along at all with my Masters supervisor... he hated my guts and so did I his! So I am not going to get a good reference letter from him. And since the whole degree was research-based, there are no transcripts... It's just pass or fail (which I passed). And no, I did not publish any papers.

 

I got the best possible marks for my undergrad degree. And my undergrad supervisor was amazing, I know I will get a very good reference letter from him.

 

Now, for the schools I am applying to, you have to have MCAT, of course, but it is used as a flag only, the marks don't actually matter as long as I pass them at a reasonable mark (which with my IT background is a challenge itself! lol) - so my application will be basically judged by my academic achievements.

 

Now my question is this:

On my application, should I mention my Masters? If I do, I will have to get a reference letter from my supervisor which will be terrible. Or should I just skip that and only mention my undergraduate degree? Bear in mind tho that my Masters university was a lot more prestigious than my undergrad one. In my resume, I can say I've been working for myself over the past 5 years (like what I do now) and just skip the Masters...

 

Please help, any thoughts I would greatly appreciate. I am at a loss here.........

FJ

 

I would absolutely mention your Masters - some schools like U of T and Mac give you "bonus" points for doing them. You do not need to get your Masters supervisor to give you a reference letter. People in general should get letters from those who will give them excellent letters. If by some chance you were ever asked in an interview why you didn't pick them, you can tell them the that the people you selected where those who knew you the best/had time to do it etc. There are lots of reasons why someone wouldn't be able to write a letter (sick, dealing with personal issues etc...) so they wouldn't discriminate you based on the fact that you had 3 stellar letters though your masters supervisor was not one - they WOULD eliminate you if your letter was bad or even mediocre.

 

Where you did your undergrad/grad studies REALLY doesn't matter. Why? Because all your grades, MCAT score etc is plugged into a computer and the names of the schools you went to don't come up. It doesn't matter if you went to Ryerson or Harvard, as long as you got the grades.

 

Lastly, I would caution you on being so flippant about the MCAT. Yes, a lot of the schools only use the MCAT as a "flag", however its more getting a 13, 11, R, 9" kind of flag rather than a "9,9,O,9" kind of flag. And even the schools that say they only look at VR, the fact is that they get the whole score and I know for a fact (from a guy who was on the ad com for Mac for over 15 years) that they DO use the MCAT as a means of elimination. For example, you have two great candidates who have the same high GPA, high VR and Casper, but one has as 12 on BS and the other an 8, the 12 will ALWAYS win. And when you always have more perfect candidates then space, you need to mitigate your weaknesses as much as possible.

 

Good luck!

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Thank you guys so much for your replies. So I think I will mention the Masters. The problem is tho, UoT MD admissions says as a graduate I have to submit a graduate package which must include a letter from the degree's supervisor. Mind you, now thinking about it, it doesn't exactly say which "degree"... I am going to include my Undergrad supervisor, of course. So maybe that way I satisfy the requirement as well and just keep the thesis supervisor out of it. But they may look at the application suspiciously.

 

But hey, I can only do what I can do, right? So I think I'm gonna go with the Masters... at the end, I spent many sleepless nights doing it! :)

 

And thank you Kasiunut for your the MCAT warning. I cannot afford to take it lightly as with my computer engineering background, I am equally weak in all the areas! (apart from VR and Writing - done a lot of that for my thesis!)

 

Have a great day...

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Then how do you explain applicants who get accepted to Mac after only writing the VR section of the MCAT (scoring say a 1/11/1)?

 

Its possible because that person may have had an amazing GPA, Casper and interview.

 

The guy wasn't saying they use it initially, but WILL use it if they have to, when they set about deciding who to give offers to. That 1/11/1 person you are referring to may have blown the ad com away during interviews and may not have been on the chopping block at all. He was saying though, once they need to get down to their final list, they look at anything and everything to justify eliminating someone, so this is why I advised the OP to maybe NOT discard the importance of the MCAT because it MAY be the one thing that eliminates him.

 

Though I'd like to see some stats of people who had a 1/11/1 actually get in. I find that hard to believe since you can easily score a 3 or 4 just by guessing the same letter on each question.

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Get a reference letter, but naturally - read the thing yourself.

 

As long as it's not negative, I'd send it in because as you said they would be expecting one.

 

If it is negative, toss it.

 

References send their reference letters directly to medical schools. If you are cool with your reference they will often let you look at it perhaps even draft it if they are too busy but it doesnt sound like the OP had a good relationship with his Masters thesis supervisor to have that type of arrangement.

 

As per Futuredoc's comment, you can not just omit your grad studies. You must include it but you do not have to use your masters supervisor as a reference so yes go ahead and use your undergrad thesis supervisor as a reference letter. That is fine.

 

Beef

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Its possible because that person may have had an amazing GPA, Casper and interview.

 

The guy wasn't saying they use it initially, but WILL use it if they have to, when they set about deciding who to give offers to. That 1/11/1 person you are referring to may have blown the ad com away during interviews and may not have been on the chopping block at all. He was saying though, once they need to get down to their final list, they look at anything and everything to justify eliminating someone, so this is why I advised the OP to maybe NOT discard the importance of the MCAT because it MAY be the one thing that eliminates him.

 

Though I'd like to see some stats of people who had a 1/11/1 actually get in. I find that hard to believe since you can easily score a 3 or 4 just by guessing the same letter on each question.

Some people just don't do the other sections - when I wrote my MCAT, I finished the PS section and went out to the waiting room, and a girl came out right after me and left (she said she just did the verbal section). The lady supervising the exam seemed confused, so it probably doesn't happen that often lol.

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Hi all,

 

Thank you all for your replies. Yes, I have seen a 'draft' of the reference letter I would get from my Masters supervisor... And let me tell you, it was not pretty!

 

Even when I was his student and applied for some funding (a month or so after starting my research), the 'supporting letter' he supplied with the funding application was "well, I don't know him well enough yet so I cannot make judgements...". I'm not kidding you! Guess what happened to the funding: I did not get it! So I am not surprised the slightest with the reference letter draft.

 

So I don't want to get bit in the same place twice. I'm not just saying this because we had problems with each other, but my masters supervisor was extremely socially awkward and condescending towards everyone - even the top researchers in the field.

 

Anyway, I do have a very good mark for my undergrad. I haven't had them translated from UK to GPA by WES yet but a Google search suggests it would be between 3.7-4.0/4.0.

 

As for MCAT, I suppose I have to do very well at it because not having my masters supervisor's reference letter will raise an eyebrow for sure, so they may look into other details such as MCAT in more detail, and not just as a flag.

In any case, having computer science background, I have to revise/learn quite a bit in all MCAT subjects. So I might as well work harder and get better results.

 

But the thing is, I would hate for all the hard work and stress to be for nothing. So any encouraging words are welcome! lol

 

You have no idea how frustrated I feel for having to include someone, with whom I don't want anything to do with, in my resume and applications (for med school and otherwise).

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You mean to say that using his LOR would be the kiss of death.:eek:

 

Ihave not given this real thought, and it may well be a horrible idea, your essay could briefly discuss the problems you had with him.:confused: Not dwell on it but rather what you learned from such an unhealthy relationship. That is a potential way of covering your bases but I don't know how sound this idea is - to work it to your advantage is ome way, thereby neutering/explaining any impact of not having his letter.

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Basically yes, using his reference letter means I might as well not apply in the first place! lol

 

As for mentioning the problems, I have thought about it. But from a psychological point of view, I think it would be to my disadvantage because:

  • The interviewers are academics themselves; they won't appreciate a colleague being criticized;
  • I accusing an absent person will have a negative projection on myself, no matter how right I am;
  • They'll probably think I'm just moaning; at the end of the day, as academics they hear false excuses all the time.

 

So I think putting this down on paper would have a small chance of a good outcome. In the interview, however, if asked, I could elaborate.

 

Thanks for the suggestion.

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I would absolutely mention your Masters - some schools like U of T and Mac give you "bonus" points for doing them. You do not need to get your Masters supervisor to give you a reference letter. People in general should get letters from those who will give them excellent letters. If by some chance you were ever asked in an interview why you didn't pick them, you can tell them the that the people you selected where those who knew you the best/had time to do it etc. There are lots of reasons why someone wouldn't be able to write a letter (sick, dealing with personal issues etc...) so they wouldn't discriminate you based on the fact that you had 3 stellar letters though your masters supervisor was not one - they WOULD eliminate you if your letter was bad or even mediocre.

 

Where you did your undergrad/grad studies REALLY doesn't matter. Why? Because all your grades, MCAT score etc is plugged into a computer and the names of the schools you went to don't come up. It doesn't matter if you went to Ryerson or Harvard, as long as you got the grades.

 

Lastly, I would caution you on being so flippant about the MCAT. Yes, a lot of the schools only use the MCAT as a "flag", however its more getting a 13, 11, R, 9" kind of flag rather than a "9,9,O,9" kind of flag. And even the schools that say they only look at VR, the fact is that they get the whole score and I know for a fact (from a guy who was on the ad com for Mac for over 15 years) that they DO use the MCAT as a means of elimination. For example, you have two great candidates who have the same high GPA, high VR and Casper, but one has as 12 on BS and the other an 8, the 12 will ALWAYS win. And when you always have more perfect candidates then space, you need to mitigate your weaknesses as much as possible.

 

Good luck!

 

Interesting info about mac! Did you just say BS to indicate as an example that they may look at any other section, meaning, could they use the PS section as a tie breaker also? Or is there something special about BS?

 

Also, is it possible that this adcom member was telling you how things were a while back, since now apparently the have the 70% MMI, 15% VR, 15% GPA formula. Maybe he was relaying info from how they did things many years ago? How recently was this individual on the adcom? Regardless, thank you so much for sharing that! :)

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Interesting info about mac! Did you just say BS to indicate as an example that they may look at any other section, meaning, could they use the PS section as a tie breaker also? Or is there something special about BS?

 

Also, is it possible that this adcom member was telling you how things were a while back, since now apparently the have the 70% MMI, 15% VR, 15% GPA formula. Maybe he was relaying info from how they did things many years ago? How recently was this individual on the adcom? Regardless, thank you so much for sharing that! :)

 

 

Sorry, he was on the ad com about 5 years ago (so yes, a while ago) but he's still very active and has a lot of contacts there.

 

He didn't say that its a guarantee that a person's other MCAT score marks will be looked at - he just mentioned that they could if they wanted to because they will often need "tie-breakers" (and no, there was nothing special about BS vs PS, that was hypothetical). He says that it gets really hard when they have say 300 perfect candidates (after the interviews are done etc) but need to eliminate 100 of them. He said that all schools will look at things that they don't necessarily mention on their admin webpages or blogs because at that point everyone has met the cut offs, done amazing on the interviews etc and they still need to eliminate. In a given year they may decide to look at remaining MCATs. Or they may look at the candidates gender. Or racial background. Or age. Or a combination of things.

 

My point wasn't that there is a magic MCAT number, but more to caution against thinking that things don't count if they aren't mentioned. I guess, its about minimizing your risk and doing your best.

 

Oh and regarding reference letters, I think I heard it mentioned that there is a box somewhere that the one writing the letter is asked whether or not the candidate has seen the letter and I've heard that if "Yes" is ticked off it may not be weighted as heavily. I'm not sure if this is true, but something to keep in mind.

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Sorry, he was on the ad com about 5 years ago (so yes, a while ago) but he's still very active and has a lot of contacts there.

 

He didn't say that its a guarantee that a person's other MCAT score marks will be looked at - he just mentioned that they could if they wanted to because they will often need "tie-breakers" (and no, there was nothing special about BS vs PS, that was hypothetical). He says that it gets really hard when they have say 300 perfect candidates (after the interviews are done etc) but need to eliminate 100 of them. He said that all schools will look at things that they don't necessarily mention on their admin webpages or blogs because at that point everyone has met the cut offs, done amazing on the interviews etc and they still need to eliminate. In a given year they may decide to look at remaining MCATs. Or they may look at the candidates gender. Or racial background. Or age. Or a combination of things.

 

My point wasn't that there is a magic MCAT number, but more to caution against thinking that things don't count if they aren't mentioned. I guess, its about minimizing your risk and doing your best.

 

Oh and regarding reference letters, I think I heard it mentioned that there is a box somewhere that the one writing the letter is asked whether or not the candidate has seen the letter and I've heard that if "Yes" is ticked off it may not be weighted as heavily. I'm not sure if this is true, but something to keep in mind.

 

Wow, thanks for the informative reply! I for one have always believed that there is always more to the story than what is on the surface. Yes, medical schools do have to give a fair answer for how they will do things, but it can't be 100% black and white. Your information suggests that that is true!

 

I guess moral of the story is, that there are lots of things we can't control, so do your best at what you can, and leave the rest to the universe! :)

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I would say definitely do not get a reference letter from this guy. If you want, in your essay, you could mention some difficulties you had with him and how you dealt with/overcame them. But, I would not use the whole essay to discuss this! If there is no essay or you decide not to include it in the essay, they could ask you in the interview, so make sure you prepare a good response for that! Something that focuses on what you learned and how you turned it into a positive experience.

I don't think it's the end of the world if you don't get a ref letter from your supervisor. You could also try to make up for it by getting a ref letter from a professor on your advisory committee or a post-doc in your lab.

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I think it is an obligation to mention that you've done a Masters. It is also in your advantage to mention this. Just don't get a reference letter from this guy if he can't give you a descent letter. I really don't get your ex-supervisor, though; even if he doesn't like your guts, he should still normally give you at least an ok ref letter. After all, you worked for his benefit; he should be thankful.

 

I do advise you to try and get other ref letters from any other prof who knows you well and who has been able to evaluate your work (even indirectly). Is there a post-doc in your lab who could give you a good ref letter? Maybe you can get a letter from the Head of your Department? That could compensate for the lack of your supervisor's letter. With the Grad package, they give you the opportunity to send in 3 extra ref letters; try and send in at least 2 of the 3 extra ref letters.

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