Letters of Recommendation for Medical School
All medical schools require applicants to submit letters of recommendation. In general, medical schools request three recommendation letters. They want two letters from from science professors and one from a professor in a non-science field. A good recommendation letter is a very helpful in securing your medical school acceptance. Conversely, a lukewarm recommendation will make medical schools hesitate to offer admission. Although you will likely will never see your recommendation letters, you can take steps to make sure that they help your application.
Select Letter Writers Carefully
In order to get optimal recommendation letters, you must choose the right people to write them. The ideal person to approach for a letter of recommendation for medical school has these attributes:
- Knows you well
- Taught a class that you did well in
- Likes you
- Established in their field
- Familiar with medical school requirements
It may not be possible to identify three people who fit all these characteristics. However, you should try to find a professor that meets as many of these attributes as possible.
Timing is Important
Timing is essential during the medical school application process. As with most things, earlier is better. Many medical schools will not review an application until all portions, including the letters of recommendation, have been submitted. Therefore, it is imperative that your professors submit your letters of recommendation on time. For this reason, ask your chosen professors as early as possible for a recommendation letter. Furthermore, keep in mind that your professors will likely have recommendation letters to write for many other students. Therefore, give your professors at least one month to complete your letters.
In order for a recommendation letter to be helpful to your medical school application, it must provide useful information to the admissions committee. Ideally, your letter writers will know your strengths and be knowledgeable about what characteristics medical schools value in their students. Unfortunately, it is often not the case. Therefore, it is a good idea to be proactive and offer your letter writers guidance about what to include in your letter. Prepare an information packet for your professors that will help them with your letter. It will make their job much easier.
Information Packet for Recommendation Letters
Your information packet should include several items. You should provide your letter writers with your curriculum vitae, your personal statement, the letter request form from AMCAS, an addressed and stamped envelope, and the AMCAS guide for letter writers. Your professor will likely find these items very useful.
In most circumstances, your letter writer will be unfamiliar with your academic background, other than your attendance at their school. Your CV will allow your professor to get a better idea of your background and achievements.
Your personal statement gives insight into your values and personal traits. If your letter writer does not know you outside of the classroom, this information will be essential to help them write a strong letter of recommendation. Medical schools look for students who embody certain core competencies. The personal statement and letters of recommendation are the only areas of the initial application where you will be able to demonstrate that you possess these non-academic traits.
Letter Request Form
AMCAS requires that all letters of recommendation include the applicant’s AAMC identification number and the AMCAS letter ID. In addition, many medical schools require that recommendation letters be submitted on official school letterhead and include a signature. The letter request form, which can be printed from the AMCAS application, provides the necessary identification numbers to your letter writer.
Addressed and Stamped Envelope
Although there are several methods of submitting recommendation letters to AMCAS, many professors will find that it is most convenient to send them through the mail. In order to facilitate the submission of your letter, provide your letter writers with an envelope that is ready to go.
AMCAS Letter Guide
In most cases, your professors will have written medical school recommendation letters in the past. However, AMCAS provides a very useful guide that explains how to write an effective letter. It also outlines some of the characteristics that medical schools look for. You may wish to direct your letter writers to this document so that they write you an optimal letter.
Medical school is competitive. It is essential to secure strong letters of recommendation in order to withstand the competition. Keep these tips in mind as you apply, and you will give yourself a distinct advantage.
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