Medical School Letters of Recommendation: Who and How To Ask

Medical School Letters of Recommendation: Who and How To Ask

medschoolcoach

Posted in: Applying to Medical School

It’s important to get your letters of recommendation (AMCAS calls them letters of evaluation) from respected professionals who can speak to your potential to succeed in medical school, as they know you personally. 

Here’s everything you need to know about asking for letters of recommendation (LOR).

How many letters of recommendation do I need for medical school?

Medical school admissions require a minimum of three letters. They should include:

  • 2 science letters of recommendation from a science faculty member. It’s best to ask a professor over a teaching assistant for the letter. TAs are welcome to help the professor in writing the letter.
  • One letter of recommendation from a non-science professor, such as humanities

The number of letters is up to you and the number of people you believe can speak to your competencies.

For athletes, a letter of evaluation from a coach for your medical school application can go a long way as well.

Those applying to osteopathic schools should have an osteopathic physician (DO) write a letter of recommendation for their medical school applications.

How many LoR can I upload to AMCAS, AACOMAS, and TMDSAS?

You can upload as many as 10 medical school recommendation letters to AMCAS for MD programs, and 6 letters to AACOMAS. TMDSAS asks for a Health Professions Committee Packet OR 3 letters of evaluation. 

  1. Health Professions Committee Packets come in 3 formats:
  2. A committee letter from a pre-medical committee or pre-health advisor with an attached supporting set of letters.
  3. A committee letter that is written, pulling quotes from various evaluators. This letter may have additional supporting letters attached.
  4. A collection of individual letters that include a cover letter from a central collection service for the applicant, usually an advising office or school letter service. They do not make additional assessments of the candidate; the letter packet will contain the only recommendations.

How many letters of recommendation for medical school are too many?

More than 6 letters can be too many.  Check with the schools you are applying to for any additional instructions or restrictions on the number of letters they’d like you to submit.

Whom should I request letters from?

Request letters from a professor or mentor that will be able to speak to you and your abilities. Outside of the three required letters of recommendation from science and non-science professors, additional letters we recommend requesting include the following:

  • LoR from a community leader or somewhere you volunteered.
  • LoR from a physician you have shadowed or that has been a mentor.
  • LoR from your school’s pre-med advising committee.
  • LoR from a research principal investigator.

Ask if they’re willing to vouch for you in a strong letter of recommendation. Have your materials, such as your resume, ready to go. Your letter writer should have a good sense of why you are interested in medicine and the topics and strengths that you want covered in the letter. 

How many pages should a letter of recommendation be for medical school? Your letter writer should be able to provide a letter of recommendation for medical school that is at least one page long and no more than three pages long.

You can ask somebody to address something that may be of concern on your application if they know you well. For example, one letter might explain a semester of bad grades for which there was a particular reason, such as a loss in the family.

Feel free to send this PDF to your letter writers to help them write letters of evaluation by AAMC guidelines.

When should I request letters of recommendation for my medical school application?

Ask for your letters early, at least two months ahead of time. You will want to submit your LoR by the end of June, even though secondaries may not have been sent yet. Technically, your letters of evaluation must be sent concurrently with your secondary applications (but you shouldn’t wait that long to ask).

Asking early and shortly after your class or interaction with the letter writer gives them time to thoughtfully craft their opinions while everything is fresh on their mind. It also gives you one less thing to stress about if they are taking longer than usual. 

Can you add letters of recommendation after submitting AMCAS?

Yes, you can add letters of recommendation after submitting AMCAS as long as you haven’t already submitted 10 letters. However, you are unable to delete or change any letters that have already been sent.

Can my letter writers submit recommendations before AMCAS opens?

No, it is not possible for letter writers to submit recommendations before AMCAS opens

How To Ask For a Letter of Recommendation For Medical School

Developing relationships with your professors and supervisors as a premed is a helpful part of asking for a letter of recommendation. Attending classes regularly, participating in extracurriculars, and visiting during office hours allow them to get to know you.

How important are letters of recommendation for medical school? Letters of recommendation are very important for medical school because they give the admissions committee a glimpse of your work ethic, abilities, and who you are as a person. It will be one of the first ways they get to know you outside of your GPA and MCAT scores and lead to a potential interview.  

Have a conversation with your professor or supervisor before asking for a letter of recommendation. This ensures that your request doesn’t appear disingenuous. If an in-person meeting is not possible, sending a polite and well-crafted email is the next best option

Learn more about how our Physician Advisors can help you make an impression with your professors and stand out among medical school applicants.

Here’s What To Provide Your Letter Writers

What should I include in a letter of recommendation for medical school? In your letter of recommendation for medical school, you want letter writers to include a whole picture of your motivation, determination, and personality for medical school. Offer necessary supporting documents to each letter writer.

Be prepared to provide your letter writers with any additional information they may need. This may include your resume, transcript, personal statement, or any other relevant documents. Some letter writers may request to meet with you individually to gather more information. 

How To Remind Your Writers To Submit Their Letters

Always consider the individual circumstances and relationship with your letter writer when reminding your writers to submit letters. We recommend a gentle email reminder if you are coming close to a few weeks before submission dates. 

You can use this template to send your reminder:

Dear [Letter Writer’s Name],

I know you are busy with [insert classes/topics/activities to connect to letter writer], but I plan on submitting my medical school applications [on date or in # of days/weeks]. I wanted to reach out regarding your recommendation letter. Please let me know if there’s any additional information I can provide.

Thanks again for supporting my next steps with your letter!

Best
[Your Name/Last Name]

Don’t forget to send thank-you notes!

Thank you notes are a way to show appreciation to the person who took the time and effort to write the recommendation letter on your behalf. Your thank-you notes should acknowledge their support and how they’ve contributed to your journey thus far.

You can use this as a base for your thank-yous, but it is best to personalize your notes.

Dear [Letter Writer’s Name],

Thank you again for taking the time to write your letter for my medical school applications. I appreciate your support and having you advocate for [talk about the abilities this letter writer knows of you]. I feel very fortunate to have a great professor/mentor/coach like you.

I will keep you posted throughout the application season!

Best
[Your Name/Last Name]

Keep it genuine, express what you appreciate and why, and send your note in a timely manner.

When are recommendation letters due during the application process?

Letters of recommendation are due no later than the date of your secondary application submission. This is usually July at the earliest and late August at the latest. However, earlier is always better. Don’t wait to make a letter request or submit your letters. 

Will I be able to see my recommendation letters?

You have the option to see your recommendation letters, but we recommend that you waive your right to view them. Medical schools will take your letters more seriously if you waive your right to see them.

Waiving your right to read the letters promotes:

  • Honesty in the letter by the writer.
  • The letter writer’s ability to speak candidly.
  • Your confidence in what the letter writer has to say about you.
  • Confidentiality in allowing the writer to speak directly to the med school admissions board.
  • Your professionalism and ethics.

Should I send different recommendation letters to different schools?

If you are applying through AMCAS, you are allowed to send different recommendation letters to different schools. AACOMAS and TMDSAS do not allow for this option.

You can choose to send a different letter of recommendation for different schools if you believe it will have a better outcome on your application. 

Advice On LoR For Non-Traditional Applicants

Your letters of recommendation need to come from recent professors. If you have been out of school for a number of years, we’d advise taking a few undergrad science courses or post-bacc classes. This means your letters will be more reflective of your current abilities, experiences, and character. 

Non-traditional applicants are encouraged to communicate their unique perspectives. Ask for a letter from someone familiar with your diverse background and non-traditional journey to provide a well-rounded picture of who you are. 

What kind of recommendation letters should I avoid?

Letters of recommendation are supposed to be from people that can make compelling assessments of you to the schools of medicine you are applying to. For strong letters of recommendation, avoid asking:

  • Someone who doesn’t know you well. Selecting someone who does not have sufficient knowledge of your skills and attributes may result in a generic or ineffective letter.
  • A family member or a friend. Admissions committees prefer letters from unbiased professionals who can provide an objective evaluation of your qualifications and potential as a medical student.
  • People who may have reservations about you. If you have the slightest feeling that there has been a negative impression in the past, avoid asking for a letter. A negative letter can significantly impact your application.

Does medical school require a letter of recommendation from a family member? Medical schools will not accept letters of recommendation from family and friends. 

How To Store Letters Of Recommendation For Medical School

Most schools have a storage service that will hold the letters until you are ready to send them to the admissions office of the medical schools you chose. There are also online storage options you may use, such as Interfolio. 

These services allow students to request their letter writers to send the letters directly to the service or upload them themselves. The letters should be signed and have an official letterhead. 

Once uploaded, the letters are securely stored and can be accessed later when applying to medical school. Students will not be able to read the letters beforehand. The ability to upload letters anytime and have them safely stored is beneficial as it avoids last-minute scrambling when submitting letters for the application process

Want to stand out in the sea of medical school applicants? We can help.

Your MCAT score and GPA are important factors in your medical school application, but letters of evaluation can give your applicant just the boost it needs. MedSchoolCoach is here to support you throughout the application process and help you get into the top medical schools

Our team is comprised of doctors who have been through the process themselves and served on admissions committees.

Speak with a member of our enrollment team to get help preparing your application for med school.

Renee Marinelli MD

Renee Marinelli MD

Dr. Marinelli is an advisor at MedSchoolCoach and former admissions committee member at UC Irvine School of Medicine. Her insight into the application process is second to none!

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