Recommendation File Service FAQs
Jump to a question:
Before you open your file:
- When should my file be set up?
- How many letter writers do most students have in their file?
- If I designate someone to write a letter for me, can I later decide to eliminate them from my file?
- What if my recommender has already submitted the letter for my file? Can I elect to have it removed from my file?
- I developed a good relationship with a professor, but I didn't do as well in the class as I would have liked. Might this be a good person to ask for a letter of recommendation?
- One of my recommenders requested my transcript. Can the recommendation file service provide this as part of my packet?
- When my information packet is sent to my recommenders, do you give them a due date?
How to set up your file:
- How many letters does a typical student have in her file?
- Will you email me when each of my letters has been received?
- Can you tell me if any of my letters are not particularly strong or suitable for my file?
- Will your office be writing a committee letter on my behalf?
- Can I use letters from my recommendation file for summer employment, research opportunities or scholarships?
- Do I need to set up a meeting in order to open my Recommendation File?
- Will the Rec File contact or send a reminder to my recommenders if they are delayed or late in sending in my letter?
Sending the Letters Packet to Schools:
- Can I add a letter to my file after my letter packet has been sent?
- If a school only wants a certain number of letters, can you send only the ones I specify?
- Can I add schools after the packet has been sent?
- Can my letters be placed in the order I want them read?
- My packets were sent recently and several schools indicate they were not received. What should I do?
- What is "VirtualEvals" and how does it work?
Before You Open Your File
Your file should be set up by the spring of the year in which you plan to apply.
Northwestern students typically select 4-5 letter writers for their file.
3. If I designate someone to write a letter for me, can I later decide to eliminate them from my file?
Yes. You can remove letter writers from your file at any time.
4. What if my recommender has already submitted the letter for my file. Can I elect to have it removed from my file?
Yes. But keep in mind that once a letter is removed, it is deleted permanently and cannot be reinstated.
5. I developed a good relationship with a professor but I didn't do as well in the class as I would have liked. Might this be a good person to ask for a letter of recommendation?
Yes. Keep in mind that the grade you received in a class is not the only component of a good letter. If you worked hard in the class and developed a good relationship with the faculty member - and he/she can attest to that and is willing to write you a strong letter - then by all means ask.
6. One of my recommenders requested my transcript. Can the recommendation file service provide this as part of my packet?
No. Our office does not provide transcripts to recommenders, but you are free to provide them directly.
No. Any deadline or timeframe you wish to give your recommenders for submitting the letter needs to be discussed and mutually agreed upon by you and the recommender.
How to Set Up Your File
The typical Northwestern applicant has 4-5 letters in the file. The file is generally comprised of 2 science faculty and 2 or 3 supplemental letters. The goal is to have any combination of the strongest letters for your file.
No. Because of the high volume of letters the recommendation file office receives each day, it is your responsibility to periodically check on your file status. This can be accomplished either by logging onto Blackboard (see #5 under Setting Up Your File for instructions) or emailing the RFS office at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about the status of your letters.
No. Due to the confidential nature of each letter that is written, the RFS office cannot comment on the strength or suitability of letters in your file. If you are concerned about whether the letter written is appropriate, it is best to discuss this directly with your recommender.
The pre-health advisers at the University Academic Advising Center sign a cover letter for each of the letter packets. While the letter is not a "premedical committee letter" or a "composite letter," some medical schools consider our "recommendation letter packet" similarly. The packet of letters includes: the copies of the letters written by your recommenders; evaluation forms completed by each of your recommenders; and a cover letter signed by one of the health professions advisers, Nancy Tapko, A. Francisco Castelan, or Susan Fox.
5. Can I use letters from my recommendation file for summer employment, research opportunities or scholarships?
No. Since your recommenders are being asked to write letters specific to your application to health professions graduate schools, we must honor the intent of the letter writers. Therefore, your letters may not be used for internships, scholarships or non health-related graduate programs.
No, it is no longer necessary to set up a meeting to open your Rec File. Students preparing to apply in the upcoming application cycle can start the process by completing the online Recommendation File Set-Up form. After that, if you have any specific questions regarding rec file decisions, you are welcome to set up an advising appointment with one of the premed advisers.
No, you are responsible for contacting or reminding your recommenders directly if their letter has not yet been submitted based on the deadline you agreed upon. The Rec File office will not contact recommenders to remind them about outstanding letters.
Sending the Letters Packet to Schools
No. Once your packet has been sent/uploaded to schools, your file is closed for that application season and no other letters can be sent by the RFS office. We recommend that you contact the letter writer and have that individual send his/her letter to the schools via the AMCAS letters portal.
No. All letters in your file are sent to all schools. Medical schools understand that there are varying policies at each undergraduate institution. Excess letters are not eliminated, but rather kept in your file to review at a later time, if necessary.
Yes. You can always elect to have your letters packet sent to additional schools after the packet has been originally sent/uploaded.
No. Your packet is generated by a database and the order of letters cannot be rearranged.
5. My packets were sent recently and several schools indicate they were not received. What should I do?
Keep in mind that schools are receiving an enormous volume of material to log into their admissions system. It can take 4-6 weeks or more for a school to receive or download letters from the Virtual Evals server and update any application status mechanism. If you are concerned about the receipt of your letters packet, please contact the school directly.
VirtualEvals is a secure web-based system, designed to transmit letters of recommendation to medical schools. A record is created for each applicant and a PDF containing the applicant's letters of evaluation is uploaded to the site. When the PDF is uploaded, an email is sent automatically to the applicant to let him/her know that the letters have been made available to designated schools. Also included in the email is a list of schools that have been attached to the applicant record by the University Academic Advising Center. Medical schools can only access letters for applicants to their school and do not have access to the list of schools to which the applicant is applying.