How to Shine as an Applicant: Letters of Recommendation

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  • October 22, 2019

How to Shine as an Applicant: Receiving Strong Letters of Recommendation

written by: Afeerah Ahmad

The application process can be anxiety-provoking and exhausting. There are many steps involved in the process (from asking for letters of recommendation to taking the MCAT; to writing secondaries; to preparing for the Casper and interviews), and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. This blog post will discuss the letter of recommendation process and how you can begin building relationships with professors early-on to mitigate stress during application season. 

  • Build relationships with your professors, mentors, and most importantly, your pre-med advisor. 
    • Professors and mentors:
      • This is something you can do the moment you begin classes your freshman year. Attend office hours frequently and schedule to meet and build a relationship with your Premed advisor. Relationships with professors can open doors to research and volunteer opportunities; improve your grades; and help you receive a letter of recommendation for medical school or an internship. The medical school application cycle begins in June the year before you matriculate. For example, if you’d like to matriculate into medical school in 2020, you will apply June of 2019. Keep this timeline in mind now when thinking of asking for a letter of recommendation. DO NOT wait to build relationships the winter before you apply, as this can lead to professors writing a less meaningful letter on your behalf. You can begin approaching professors around wintertime before you apply, and by this time you should have built relationships with them; thus, it should not be as difficult for them to write a strong letter for you. Kindly ask if they would be willing to write you a letter of recommendation, and don’t take it too personally if they say that they will be unable to, if they believe you did not do well enough in the class or if they do not know you all that well. This is where building relationships early-on can help. After a professor or mentor agrees to write you a letter of recommendation, it is important that you send over anything that could help them write a strong letter including your resume, drafts of your personal statement, and the AAMC guide for writing letters of recommendation. There are certain competencies that medical schools are looking for, so if you can send this to your professor or mentor, this will help place emphasis on your strengths when writing a letter on your behalf. 
    • Premed Advisors:
      • Build relationships with your Premed advisors the moment you meet them, as they will be a valuable resource in guiding you through your career path. They could also potentially write you a letter of recommendation (more on this below).  However, if it is difficult to regularly meet with your pre-med advisor, a helpful resource is the Premed Years Podcast, which provides free advice for pre-med students that you can listen to on-the-go.
    • Committee Letters of Recommendation:
      • Many schools look to see if you have a committee letter of recommendation. A committee letter is another opportunity for someone, specifically your Premed advisor and the pre-med committee, to advocate for you; highlight your achievements; and discuss your motivation as you pursue this arduous, yet rewarding career path. Each school has a different application process for this, so speak with your advisors to determine if you have one and how you can apply.

Regardless of where you are in the cycle, best of luck with building relationships and receiving the solid letters of recommendation you deserve!

Helpful Links: 

  1. Guidelines for Writing a Letter of Evaluation for a Medical School Application from the AAMC:

https://www.aamc.org/system/files?file=2019-09/lettersguidelinesbrochure.pdf

  1. The Premed Years Podcast:

https://medicalschoolhq.net/thepremedyears/

  1. Advisor Corner: Preparing for Committee Letter Process:

https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/article/advisor-corner-preparing-committee-letter-process/

Alexandra Alvarez

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