Before You Set Up Your File
Before you open your file
We suggest that you complete the following steps:
- Discuss the medical school application process with a premedical adviser.
- Decide whom to approach for letters of recommendation (only one letter is needed to set up a file).
- Choose your recommenders wisely. A person who knows you well can write a more meaningful and detailed letter. Note that all letters in your file are sent to ALL schools.
- Schools typically require two science faculty members and one non-science faculty members. (However, specific letter requirements vary; research your schools' requirements.)
- Additional letters may be from:
- A professor in your major
- Supervisors, academic advisers, coaches, research directors, or physicians you have shadowed.
Requesting a letter
- Depending on your relationship with the recommender, you may contact him or her in person, by email, or by phone.
- If you haven't spoken with him or her in a while, introduce yourself and remind them of who you are and how you know them.
- Ask if the person is comfortable writing a letter for you, and whether he/she knows you well enough to write a strong letter of recommendation. Always give the person an opportunity to say "no".
- Ask if the recommender would like to schedule a meeting to discuss the matter more fully. Some people will want to interview you at some length; others may not have time to meet and would prefer to review your written material.
- Offer to provide them with additional material, such as your resume, transcript, course papers and exams, application essays, and summaries of extracurricular involvement.
- Be prepared for meaningful dialogue about your intention for pursuing a health profession.
- Discuss a due date for the letter. Recommenders should be given at least 4-6 weeks to complete the recommendation.
Don't Forget . . .
Thank your recommenders!
Writing a letter of recommendation is hard work. During an application season, it is likely that your teachers, counselors, coaches, and supervisors will be receiving a lot of requests to write recommendation letters from students.
Take a few minutes out of your day to handwrite a thank you note to each of your recommenders. Given the fact that few students send such notes, yours will stand out. And, aside from being a polite gesture, it will be a way to express your appreciation for their time and energy.
In the long run, they will be more inclined to help you if the need arises. Not to mention the fact that your current instructors, mentors and supervisors will most likely one day be your professional colleagues as well. Begin building strong professional connections now by making a good impression.