Prehealth

DaVinci's Man

Letters of Recommendation: Overview

Committee Letter   Cover Letter

Committee Letter

It is your responsibility to identify faculty members (ideally 3 science and 2 non-science) who can write meaningful, positive letters of recommendation for your application to allopathic medical school. They must submit their letters to our Premedical and Predental Advisory Committee, who then writes a composite letter of evaluation, quoting directly from the faculty letters. If you are applying to other types of health-related professional programs, you may not need a committee letter. Check with the individual schools to which you are applying to determine whether they prefer a committee letter or separate individual letters.

Here is a list of things to keep in mind when soliciting letters of recommendation:

  1. Get to know your faculty instructors.

    This may mean consulting them outside of class if you have questions, or simply making an appointment with them to talk about your career goals and personal aspirations. If the faculty do not know you, they cannot write anything that will help medical schools determine what kind of person you are and what are your personal strengths and skills. Make sure the faculty knows more than just how you scored on their exams; if the letter focuses only on your academic credentials, it may not reveal much beyond what your GPA or MCAT scores already indicate.
  2. Ask for positive recommendations.

    If the faculty member is not willing to commit to a positive letter, then thank them for their time, but do not include them in your final list.
  3. Ask the instructor to write a letter soon after you have finished the course with him or her.

    If you wait until your junior year to ask your freshman chemistry professor, chances are he or she will not remember enough about you to write a meaningful letter. The letters will be sent to the Premedical and Predental Advisory Committee and kept on file until needed.
  4. The official written request for a letter of recommendation is sent to the faculty instructor by the Health Careers Office.

    You should pick up and sign the forms as soon as you identify a professor who is willing to write a positive letter. You will be asked to read and sign the form to indicate whether you do or do not waive your right to see the individual letters of recommendation. You do not have to waive your right to see the letters, but if you do not do so, this fact must be conveyed to the medical school in the committee's letter. Some schools may then be concerned whether the letters were written with full candor. The signed forms will be distributed to faculty by our office; do not distribute them yourself.
  5. Be sure that all letters are received by the Health Careers Advising Office ideally by March, but at the latest by May.

    This means keeping in touch with our office to know which letters have been received, and possibly reminding faculty who have not yet sent their letters that delaying your application can hurt you.
  6. If you engage in extracurricular activities or research, you should also ask your supervisor to write a letter, especially if you have made a significant contribution.

    If you do laboratory research, it is especially important for you to get a letter from your supervisor. If you cite your research experience on your application, but do not include a letter from your supervisor, the medical schools may become concerned. It should now be apparent that simply showing up for such activities is not enough; you should strive for leaving a legacy of accomplishment to which a reputable supervisor can attest. This can be a very powerful and persuasive part of your application.

Additional links:

A Guide to Getting a Good Letter of Recommendation
5 Basics of Premed Letters of Recommendation
Getting Letters of Recommendation
Medical School Recommendations
Pre-Med Preparation: Getting Letters of Recommendation
The Best Medical School Recommendations
Why Are Letters of Evaluation Important?