View Full Version : Question about references (confidential asses forms)
06-25-2002, 01:22 PM
I know thats its extremely important to get a letter/form of reference from someone who knows you well, AND will give you a Good reference. But my question is, what happens if your references arent really good with English?
In my lab, there are two research associates who have their M.D. However, their English isnt exactly great since their from overseas. Although they would write a letter for me, I doubt that it would be gramatically sound....So, they said it was fine if I WROTE/DID the REFERNCE forms, and they would sign it (assuming they'd agree with everything I put)....Do you think thats ok??
Its essential the same as if they were to write the letter themselves, its just that Im worried that the ad com would look down on it since its not in good English.
Also, does anyone know if the ad com actually contacts your refeeres?
06-25-2002, 01:30 PM
I'm not really sure if it's "OK", but I bet it happens a lot. I just don't feel comfortable writing my own reference letters, so I never did anything like that. But there must be people who either read their letters beforehand or write the references themselves, and then get the referees to sign.
As for the grammar etc., I don't think it's a big deal unless the reader has trouble understanding what your referee is trying to say.
Finally, they definitely can contact your referees. For example, I heard that one school sends them a postcard after a person has been accepted, saying that "Mr./Ms. so-and-so got in, and one of the reference letters we received was from you. If you didn't actually send one, please contact us immediately", etc.
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I understand your dilema. Getting the right references can be a little frustrating. But, what you are doing is very dishonest. You are not even supposed to see them let alone write them yourself. I know several people who read their reference letters. I think that is okay. It helps the applicant keep their stress down and weed out bad ones. But, to write them yourself - there must be a better way. Doesn't that defeat the purpose of having a reference - of course you think you will be a great doctor. Also, when references know that you will be reading their letter they may make it different than they would have if you weren't reading it. That is why they make it confidential in the first place. They want to make sure your references can give you an honest letter. Why don't you just ask them to write the letter and let you read it first. Then you can correct it and give it back to them.
The omsas form is really easy. You just check a number of boxes and add a brief comment. One of my references told me that they bascially checked excellent for all the categories and wrote Jen will be a caring and compassionate physcian. That is it one sentence hand written in red ink. I got in! Reference letters are usually a flag. If they are bad there is a problem if they are good or average no worries.
06-25-2002, 04:05 PM
I agree with what Jen said above. The references I got were probably pretty good, but I doubt any of them blew the admissions committees away. I still got in. Most letters range somewhere from decent to good, so I don't think they'll make much difference unless they're exceptionally good or bad.
06-25-2002, 06:47 PM
So long as your referees don't say that you'd make a poor physician, you should be fine- most schools just use them as flags, so don't worry too much about the content. At the same time, be sure to get people who'll say nice things about you!
Best of luck!
06-25-2002, 11:06 PM
Why is it dishonest? I think it is perfectly honest. If your referees AGREE to let you write a letter on their behalf, and then read the letter, then they are accepting responsibility for what is written. In what possible way could that be dishonest? Having someone in a referee-like position who trusts you enough to let you have a blank slate with your letter means that they think you're a great applicant. What's wrong with that? I can't see anything even potentially ethically wrong with this.
If we're going to be anal here, I think the key word is 'confidential' - the applicant really should not know what is being said about them. Mailex, I'm pretty sure your supervisors are fully capable of making check marks, so leave that part to them and explain if necessary. For the written part, I'd have to agree with Applicant, just write it and get your supervisor's approval.... really it's not that big of a deal considering that they don't even give you a lot of space to write much. And Jen according to your logic, why is it okay for someone to read their own reference letters, but not okay to write their own with the full approval of their referee? It's the same difference to me.
If we are talking about dishonesty both are. These are supposed to be confidential forms. We are not even supposed to see them let alone write them. Are you telling me that if your references wrote your letters themselves that they would be idential to what you are going to write. Obviously not! That is why it is dishonest. Like I said seeing the letters before they are sent are also dishonest - but you are not changing them. I view that as somewhat okay. But, it is 100% not the same thing as writing them yourself. Contact the med schools admissions officers and see what they have to say. I am positive they will not be impressed.
In the end references don't really matter that much. All i am saying is that is you have to write the reference yourself - why don't you just ask someone else to be your reference.
06-26-2002, 01:28 PM
The issue isnt that "I'm afraid that I have a bad reference" or that "I want to make my confiden asse. form stellar"....the issue is that my referree wants to extremely recommend me to meds; however, he/she is not quite sure HOW as opposed to WHAT to say....
Im just wondering if its ethical/"illegal" to "re-word" what your refeere is trying to say in a more clear, concise, gramatically way...
06-26-2002, 04:10 PM
I had a similar experience applying to law school. My supervisor happily volunteered to write me a reference, but had no idea what to write--she had never written one for law before. She asked me for a list of things I thought were important to mention, and then she would write it up. I don't really think this is a big deal. If someone really wants to help you but is unsure of how to go about it, I hardly think it is unethical to go over some of the details--be it ideas or grammar or whatever. The same goes for reading references beforehand. I know many people applying to law, medicine, etc whose referees offered or even insisted they review the letters beforehand. All they're trying to do is make sure they've written "the right thing". Generally people who agree to write you references are supportive of your application--they want to make sure you succeed, and that nothing they do will jeopardize your chances.
So, I wouldn't worry OR feel bad about it. Someone asking you to reword something because they're uncomfortable with the English language is hardly an ethics violation. Unethical is having someone sign a form that you proceed to fill in yourself, forging someone's signature, or paying someone to write a good reference.
And, I should mention, I'm pretty confident it's not illegal (in my amateur opinion anyway) ;)
06-26-2002, 11:30 PM
In the end, if a reference has the goal of "writing the strongest letter possible", then everything else is just an issue of how well the referee writes. I still see no difference between who writes the letter, or who sees the letter, once this point has been gotten to - if the referees didn't feel this way, they wouldn't let the applicant write the letter. I have often had referees (not for meds, yet, haven't applied yet) show me letters they've written for me. If my referees feels confident enough about the letter to let me see it, then that's their decision. This is not "unethical"
sigh... I really think it'd be best if the whole thing was just checkboxes.. level the playing field by just having a box that says "I'd like to write the most incredible, stunning, reference letter that I can", let people check it off if they choose, and leave the writing contests to the applicants in their essays! :-)
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