Medical school admission committees place a great deal of weight on an applicant's letters of recommendation. You should attend to this aspect of your application with care and organization. We suggest that you obtain six letters of evaluation, including two or three from faculty members who have taught you in the sciences, one or two from non-science faculty, and others from additional sources such as someone who has supervised you in a summer internship, someone for whom you have worked, a coach, etc. Obviously, a person who knows you well can write a stronger letter than someone who knows you only slightly. In choosing between someone who taught you in a small class and a prominent individual who has little basis upon which to write a personal letter, select the former. Candidates applying to osteopathic programs should include a letter from a D.O. as well.
Your health professions recommendations should be specific to the type of program to which you are applying; i.e., medical school, dental school, veterinary school, optometry school.... These letters will be released only to support your application to the health profession program for which they were written, and for related scholarships.
Candidates seeking a strong, well-written letter of evaluation should remember that their request places a serious, time-consuming responsibility on the evaluator. You can help your recommender write the best possible letter by following the guidelines listed below:
- In requesting a letter of evaluation, make an appointment with the prospective recommender to discuss your interest in and preparation for the profession you are pursuing. Ask if he or she knows you or your work well enough to write a supportive letter. Do not rely solely on email communication: if distance precludes meeting, arrange for a phone conversation.
- Provide the person writing on your behalf a short statement of intent (or your personal statement) and a resume.
- When approaching professors for recommendations, provide a list of the courses you have taken from them. Ask if there is any additional information that would be helpful. A few, for example, like to review copies of papers you wrote for their courses, and some appreciate receiving a copy of your transcript.
- Unlike most letters of recommendations, letters from D.O.s in support of osteopathic applications are often based on only a few days of job shadowing experience. The primary reason for these endorsements is to assure the medical schools that you have taken the initiative to gain first hand exposure to the field before deciding to apply.
- Agree upon a due date. It is important to have your recommendations on file by March 15. Please have letters sent to the Office of Health Professions Advising (the address is on the form). Our policy is to accept only recommendations submitted directly by those who have written them.
- Waive your right of access to the evaluation by signing the release on the recommendation request form. Most admissions committees prefer that recommendations be confidential. A request/waiver form (included in the candidate packet, available from HPA and downloadable from the Health Professions website) must be submitted with each recommendation.
- A thank you note for agreeing to write the letter can serve as a friendly reminder! Once you know the letter is in your file, a quick note of thanks to the recommender for submitting the reference will be appreciated.
- As a courtesy, at the end of the selection process, please remember to inform your recommenders of your acceptances and matriculation plans. Keep in mind that their input will likely have been instrumental in your success.
It is your responsibility to insure that your letters of recommendation are on file. Rounding up all you recs can be one of the greatest challenges of the application process, so please plan to start requesting them well in advance of the March 15 deadline. Don't be surprised if you have to give some folks a friendly reminder or two before their letters actually arrive! Check the status of your credential file. Please discuss any special problems with the health professions advisor.
When indicating to the medical schools how you will be completing their requirements for letters of recommendation, state that you will be submitting a Committee Letter, with Seth Ramus identified as the Health Professions Advisor. Do not list the individuals whose recommendations will be a part of your packet; if you do so, any unforeseen delay with one letter will hold up your entire application.