Letters of recommendation for professional schools (and others)
What is a letter of recommendation? A recommendation letter is the considered opinion of the writer about you. It includes but is not limited to:
- Statements about your abilities and future chances of success in your chosen area
- Statements about your skills, desires, and background, drive and determination
- Targeted information to increase the chances of your acceptance to a program
- Information that reflects on you both positively and negatively (they ask for strengths and weaknesses)
- An overall summation of your abilities
Requesting a letter
- Consider all of your options.
- Make sure you have plenty of potential references who can speak well of you!
- Double check what the specific school requires for number and type of references.
- For medical schools, they indicate a general number.
- Type of reference may be specified (science, non-science, advisor), or not.
- Beware of letters from doctors! They must be stellar or they count against you!
- Be sensitive to anyone who hesitates about writing a letter. Find people who are willing.
- Talk to each of your potential references well in advance of the final date.
- Prepare a packet of information (see below) to give your recommenders.
- Offer to chat with them. They need to know your passion for medicine.
- Give your references everything they need to increase the chance of a complete letter
- Remember our reputation is on the line with every letter we write. We won’t lie for you.
Things to provide (for pre-medical letters, adapt as needed) In general, a recommender should appreciate having the following:
- The form for the letter (official letterhead must be used by your recommender)
- A signed waiver form (gets a more honest letter, which they trust more)
- An unsigned form will carry little weight and will not help you
- A copy of your transcript (unofficial is fine)
- A copy of your personal statement for the AMCAS or other application
- Your MCAT scores
- A list of volunteer experiences and the things you learned about medicine
- A list of some activities in which you have participated in a meaningful way
- (some info is already in your AMCAS application, but give us other things to say!)
- A reminder mechanism to see that the letter is on track (how to prod them gently)
The “committee” letter For pre-professional applicants, Alma sends a packet of individual letters. You check with your references, give them your information then turn in the list of names to Mrs. Dinwoody at the Science Office in Dow Science Center. She sends out the forms to the names on the lists, and she assembles the completed package to be sent to schools at the time of your secondary applications.
The follow-up It is your responsibility to see that everything is completed. For the committee letter, check with Mrs. Dinwoody to see that all letters have been completed. After you have requested secondaries, check to see that they have been mailed, then check with the school to see if they have been received. Schools lose much of the paper they receive. It is your job to track that the schools have what they need. Remember to thank your references, and keep them (and the Science Office) informed of your status.