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I failed one of my classes (E and M) and during the subsequent retake got an A. I was considering asking the professor for a letter of recommendation because I think the episode shows my willingness and ability to bounce back. Also, I asked him for help a bunch outside of class, so he got to see me putting in effort.

I'm of two minds:

On the positive side, this letter would address the F on my transcript in the best possible light.

On the negative side, I'm worried medical schools won't understand the effort that goes into something like E and M, and write this off as a fluff letter. Or that they will assume that getting an F in the first place (without a serious excuse) means I lack the academic prowess for medical school.

My specific question is, has anyone actually done this for medical school admissions and did it come up in an interview?

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    I won't provide a full answer, as I haven't done this. But I would talk to the professor him/herself to ask how he/she interprets your record and whether it is in a positive light or not. If the prof is supportive, then you can ask for a letter. If my search for E&M is correct, it is recognized as a challenging course, so I don't think a med school admissions group would misinterpret the letter. – Buffy Sep 4 '18 at 13:46
  • Your second concern stands regardless you have the letter from the professor or not. So it's a non-concern. Given that, I'd favor having him as one of your reference person unless all other reference writers are much stronger. – Penguin_Knight Sep 4 '18 at 13:56
  • I have not been in this specific situation (and I doubt few have, if any), but I can respond to your general concern. Obviously, an F doesn't look good on a transcript, and this is a creative way to assuage concerns about an academic failure. It doesn't involve making excuses or supplementary material, it's a direct way to say "I didn't succeed here, but I learned from it and I proved I can put in the work to succeed", and be backed up by a professor who knows you. If it comes up in an interview, it's simply another opening to prove—in person—what you learned and how you persevered. – Abigail Fox Sep 4 '18 at 21:51
  • I haven't done anything close to medical school. But (i) you don't lose anything by asking, (ii) a letter is precisely what will clarify the situation that you worry that people won't get right just by looking at your transcript. – Helen Sep 30 '18 at 14:32

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