- March 31, 2012
- Posted by: Sahil Mehta
- Category: Applying
Medical School Letters of Recommendation
The most important thing to know about letters of recommendations is to ask for them early. A lot of focus gets placed on who you should ask for letters, and rightfully so, but if your letters are not in on time it does not matter who wrote them. Your letters can be continuously added into the application system until you submit your application, after that they are locked in and cannot be changed. Most schools require three letters, but check the requirements for each school before submitting your application. You can also assign different letters to each program, which a maximum of 10 letters uploaded. After designating your letter writers in AMCAS, they are e-mailed and given instructions on how to upload your letter into AMCAS electronically. You will be able to see when letters are uploaded as they become available. Give your letter writers at least two weeks to write your letter, but obviously the more time you give them the happier (and therefore likely better) they will be when sitting down to write it.
Who should you ask?
Most advisors would say to have the people who know you the best write your letters. It is obvious when someone has known you for more than a week, and those letters are much more meaningful and provide more insight into your character. If you happen to know someone at a school you are applying, that is an advantage that is hard to ignore, but the quality is still the most important part. Still, do not ignore this advantage, try to get to know these connections in a more in depth way so their letters are meaningful, this will definitely give you an inside track. A famous research name is nice to have if they know you well, but the chances that whoever is reading your letters will recognize those names is pretty remote.
Other options to obtain medical school letters of recommendation
If your school offers a committee letter (a compilation of multiple letters of recommendation, plus a brief excerpt from your premed advisor), you should absolutely make use of this service. To find out, stop by your schools preprofessional office right away. It is important you stop by early because these letters are often written first come first serve so that you may have your letter sent in very late, or not at all, if you are too late.
If your office does not offer a premed committee letter, they may offer at least a service to gather letters (via interfolio or VirtualEvals). You can take advantage of these services to streamline the process.
If your school offers none of these, we recommend you set up an account with Interfolio.com which will allow you to upload all your letters to a central location and use them again if you need to for another purpose.
You should approach your letters writers as early as possible so that they have plenty of time to write them. You should meet with them in person and present them with your resume and a draft of your personal statement as well so that they can write a more cohesive letter.