Resources for Recommenders

For detailed information on writing and submitting your letter of recommendation, please review the information below.

Elements that should be included in your letter of recommendation

Your letter of recommendation should:

Letter submission options

The recommendation file service utilizes a system called Inspire to manage the recommendation letter collection and submission processes. Inspire acts as a portal wherein evaluators are able to log in, see a list of requested recommendations and their submission statuses, and submit ratings forms and letters of evaluation all in one place. The use of this system will streamline the process for students, evaluators, and the HPA office.

If you are a Northwestern faculty or staff member, you will be able to log in to Inspire using your NetID and password once students have requested letters from you in the system. If you are a non-Northwestern recommender, once the student has requested a recommendation from you, Inspire will generate a user name and password for your use.

If you need assistance utilizing Inspire, please reference our step-by-step walkthrough of the process, here: Inspire LOE Evaluator Walkthrough

(Please note: The guide corresponds to the old interface "AdviseStream" and will be updated when new instructions are available.)

If you have additional questions about Inspire, or need to submit your student rating and letter of recommendation via another method, please contact our office directly at

Letter of Recommendation Deadlines

While there is no hard deadline for submitting your letter of recommendation to our office, it is important that you know that students' applications will not be reviewed by medical schools/health professions programs until their letters of recommendation have been submitted. As such, we encourage a priority submission deadline of mid- July for students who are applying at the beginning of the application cycle for MD, DO, and dental programs. Please contact the student directly if you would like a specific timeline for when they will be submitting their application materials -- some students may prefer earlier submission deadlines so as to complete their application earlier in the cycle. Students applying to post-bacc programs or other health professions may have completely different application deadlines. Please know that delaying the submission of a letter of recommendation may affect a student’s application unfavorably.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if I don’t have access to official letterhead?

If you do not have access to official letterhead, it is acceptable to include your name, title, and full contact information (address/email/phone/fax) at the top of the letter. In the body of your letter, be sure to briefly explain the reason for the absence of letterhead.

I would like more information about the student I am writing a letter for. How do I request this information?

Students are encouraged (but not required) to upload a copy of their most current resume and a draft of their personal statement to their Inspire profile. If you believe you need any additional information that may have not been included in the packet of information sent to you, such as a personal statement, resume or unofficial transcript, please contact the student directly.

What should I write about in my letter of recommendation?

We encourage you to review the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) guidelines for writing letters of recommendation (also referred to as “letters of evaluation”) to help direct your letter of recommendation.

In what categories will I be expected to rate my student(s)?

We have a separate ratings form in the Inspire system that you will submit at the same time you are submitting your letter of recommendation. The categories on this ratings form are:

You do not need to address these specific areas in your letter of recommendation, but are free to do so if you feel they are relevant to your letter. And don't worry, if you don't feel like you can evaluate your student in a particular category, there is a "no opportunity to observe" option. You will also be asked to provide an overall recommendation rating for the student.