Letters of Recommendation: A Basic Guide
Letters of Recommendation (LORs) play a crucial role in your medical school application. Yet, you will find many Pre-med students who tend to ignore or undermine their importance. These are some of the reasons why Letters of recommendation are important:
- They give your application authenticity as they give an overview of your talents and strengths written by professionals in the education or medical field.
- LORs are also proofs of the fact that you actually interned or completed certain work/ activities.
- LORs can provide authenticity to your personal statement if you chose to include a particular internship experience in it.
- LORs from renowned professionals in the field can leave a very positive impact on the Admission committees.
- LORs are very useful if you are looking to explain many gap years as a non-traditional pre-med student.
- LORs are a true account of your talent and help application screeners figure out how fit you are for a career in medicine.
Asking for a letter of recommendation is not easy, and many pre-med students find themselves shying away from the task. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- LORs are required. You cannot choose to skip them or not submit them as your application will result incomplete. In short, they are mandatory requirement.
- Receiving a strong LORs requires that you try and build a positive relationship with your mentor, professor, or supervisor. Therefore, you have to start working early on on developing these meaningful relationships.
- Building a professional relationship is not that hard. Work hard, show your personality, interests, and drive and a good letter will come. Almost all your supervisors are familiar with the process and understand the importance of writing strong LORs for good students.
- If you work hard and pursue your work activities with sincerity, getting an LOR is easy.
- Since the people you will be asking for LORs are busy professionals, sometimes, you will have to pursue them diligently either in person or through emails to get them to write one on time. Therefore, the sooner you start the process of requesting an LOR, the better and less stressful it will be. We recommend asking at least one month in advance.
- Since the people who write LORs for you are professionals and senior to you in experience, make sure that you maintain utmost respect and courtesy while approaching them.
Most pre-med students submit 4-10 LORs. Remember to also write a thank you note to your professors once you have received the letter to thank them for their time and mentorship.
Following is a list of people you can and should ask to write you an LOR:
- Science Professors
- Non-Science Professors
- Any Physician, or Supervisor at your clinical internship who was tasked with monitoring and overseeing your performance
- Any Supervisor or head at your listed extracurricular activity, such as a Primary Investigator if you worked in a lab. Or your supervisor for a club or a volunteering position.
- Review school specific policies regarding LOR requirements
Following is a list of people you should avoid asking for an Letters of Recommendation:
- People whom you suspect may paint a negative picture of your capabilities in the LOR. Usually, such people outright reject to write an LOR. Since you will not be reading your own LOR, it is advisable that you avoid asking such people.
- An LOR is an account of your professional or academic achievements. Therefore, you cannot ask your family or friends to write you an LOR, even if they are doctors.
- Don’t ask your parents to ask some of their friends to write you an LOR. It is a shady practise and must be avoided. Always approach people you know professionally or academically.
Once you have decided upon your potential Letters of Recommendation writers, it is time to approach them and request your letter. Since it is required that you work on building a professional relationship with them first, asking for an LOR will not be difficult. Meet them in person, and politely ask for an LOR. If you cannot meet them you can also send them an email.
If you decide to send an email here’s what your email should contain:
- Formal Salutations
- A copy of your resume, or CV.
- Mention your credentials, year of study.
- If you want to pursue a certain specialization, then mention that as well.
- Keep the tone formal and humble.
- Make sure to follow up.
Admission Initiatives at AAMC have prepared a blueprint to help rec letter writers. It would be a good idea to attach a copy of this in your email or present a hard-copy of the same to your Rec letter writer. There is the possibility that your LOR writer is unable to recall your participation in the class or your performance during the work/activity. In that case, you can present them with a succinct write-up pointing out the specific tasks you performed during the work/activity, or during a certain research project, and also what you personally and professionally derived from completing the tasks that were assigned to you. Remember to thank your the writer at every stage.
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